Fighting for the Arts on Capitol Hill

February 8, 2016


Every spring, arts advocates gather in Washington DC and witness either snow, melting snow or the hint of budding cherry blossoms as they climb Capitol Hill.


This year, National Arts Advocacy Day takes place pre-spring on March 7-8, but preparations begin in the cold of winter far enough in advance to assemble the New Jersey delegation and schedule appointments with U.S. Congressional representatives and their aides.

ArtPride New Jersey serves as the state captain for the delegation of 15-20 arts advocates from all over the state who learn the nuances of cultural policy in training sessions led by experts from Americans for the Arts who are equipped with research and data. Small groups meet in each New Jersey congressional office to advocate for increased federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, and tell stories about how the arts make a difference in their neighborhoods and in their schools to people of all ages and backgrounds.

NEA dollars make that difference with $1.48 million coming directly to New Jersey artists and arts organizations in 2015. Late last year, Congress unveiled a bipartisan omnibus appropriations bill that contained an increase of almost $2 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and a similar increase for the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts in Education Program, proving the value of active arts advocacy.

Americans for the Arts coordinates this national event that brings together hundreds of advocates in Washington DC to review the history of arts funding and cultural policy that affects education, taxes, philanthropy, and more. The two-day event includes the free Monday night Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center, delivered this year by John Maeda, the designer, former president of Rhode Island School of Design and early proponent of the STEAM movement.

Students are an important part of the New Jersey delegation, some of whom receive subsidies to attend through ArtPride’s Burgio/Rittenhouse Memorial Fund that honors two distinguished arts advocates whose legacy continues through support for emerging arts leaders raised in their names. Last year, a group of students from the School of Communication & Media at Montclair State University, joined the group and made this short video that offers insight into the energy and enthusiasm that characterizes National Arts Advocacy Day.

Arts Advocacy Day: The Fight For The Arts from on Vimeo.

If you would like to join the New Jersey delegation, please contact ArtPride and we will make sure you go home with greater insight into the legislative process, feeling rewarded to be part of this well-orchestrated civic exercise.

Can’t attend this year? You can still be part of the action by signing up for Voter Voice at ArtPride’s Arts Action Center and supporting our Capitol Hill visits with emails to your members of U.S. Congress that tell your personal story of how the arts are important to life in your neighborhood, in New Jersey, and throughout our nation.

Video Producers: Orlando Hurtado, Gentrix Shenga, and Sarah Modo. Editor: Orlando Hurtado

 Ann Marie Miller is the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at ArtPride New Jersey and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. Email her at Click here to visit ArtPride’s website.