It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No! It’s a…Congresswoman?
How would you describe the garb of your ideal super hero? My personal answer to this question has changed quite drastically after TCG’s participation in Arts Advocacy Day (AAD) 2010. I would now say, without batting an eyelash, that my idea of a true super hero‘s outfit is a Congresswoman’s business suit jacket, draped elegantly over a Will Power T-shirt. As an annual national co-sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day, TCG brought a delegation of 8 theatre leaders to Capitol Hill. Their theatres’ geographical diversity allowed us meetings in 7 different Congressional offices, one of which was in person with Congressional Arts Caucus Co-chair, House Rules Committee Chair, and true arts heroine: Louise Slaughter.
Our encounter with Rep. Slaughter was just one of the thrilling moments that occurred during the short 48 hours that we spent in the District of Columbia. AAD attendees heard from Rocco Landesman, the Chairman of the NEA, during their day-long training on Monday; traveled to the beautiful Kennedy Center that evening to hear the Nancy Hanks Lecture featuring Major Joe Riley of Charleston, SC speaking on the art, literally, of city planning; attended the Congressional Kick-Off event on Tuesday morning where actors Jeff Daniels and Kyle McLaughlin both spoke about the need to articulate the role of the arts in creating a healthy and optimistic society, and where Nancy Pelosi spoke about her support of the arts and it’s significance in our country’s history.
These group experiences, organized by Americans for the Arts, were thrilling; however the excitement did not stop with the event’s excellent programming. Throughout both days, chance, personal encounters kept our adrenalin running high. For example, Laurie Baskin, TCG’s Director of Government and Education Programs, ran into Judy Weiner, a colleague from her previous life as Executive Assistant to Chairman Kitty Carlisle Hart of the New York State Council on the Arts. Judy is currently the Executive Director of the Alliance of NYS Arts Organizations. And Heather Randall, Board President of New York Theatre Workshop, got the opportunity to catch up with her old friend Senator Dodd ( click HERE for a photo ) during an impromptu conversation in the halls of the Senate Hart Building. I even spotted my former high school theatre director, Ruben VanKempen, among the Washington state arts advocates. He had traveled all the way from Seattle to advocate on behalf of arts education in public schools.
TCG’s team came armed with information about their own organizations’ impact – economic and otherwise – on their local communities, and through the AAD training day they learned about the national facts and figures needed to put their personal anecdotes into context. They also learned about the importance of TCG’s government program’s collaborative work with other service organizations to create a unified, national “ask” for various legislative issues. This allows Congress to hear one powerful voice, articulating the needs of the arts sector as a whole. We accomplish this year round, federal level advocacy through our coalition work with the Cultural Advocacy Group (CAG), as well as through our contributions, as a founding member, to the Performing Arts Alliance (PAA). The PAA is a collection of national service organizations that delve deep into the issue areas that specifically impact the performing arts.
Advocacy for the arts, in many ways, is directly parallel to the work that we do so aptly as theatre professions: we tell stories. And, although we often times spend our time researching, reveling in, and taking risks inspired by other’s stories or within the alternate realities of plays, there is a time and a place to step forward and boldly articulate our own story – the story of the American not-for-profit theatre. Through our finely tuned communication skills, we can influence the visibility and standing of our field to the policymakers of our nation.
For more information on how you can participate in future Arts Advocacy Day events, please email Laurie Baskin.
Participants TCG’s delegation for AAD 2010 including: Mark Cuddy, Artistic Director, Geva Theatre, Rochester, NY, (TCG Board Member); Lynn Deering, Trustee, CENTERSTAGE, Baltimore, MD, (TCG National Council Member); Morgan Jenness, Creative Consultant, Literary Division, Abrams Artists Agency, (TCG Board Member); Elisabeth Morten, Trustee, Westport Country Playhouse, CT, (TCG National Council Member); Heather Randall, Trustee, New York Theatre Workshop, NY, NY, (TCG National Council Member); Mark Shugoll, Board President, Arena Stage now located in Crystal City, VA, (TCG Board Member); Molly Smith, Artistic Director, Arena Stage, (TCG Board Member); Teresa Eyring, Executive Director, TCG; and staff members Laurie Baskin, Director of Government & Education Programs, and Alissa Moore, Government & Education Programs Assistant.
Alissa A. Moore is the government & education programs assistant at TCG. She has worked as a director and volunteer theatre educator in New York, and is currently the co-founder of Nomi Network, a non-profit organization that leverages the fashion industry to fight human trafficking in South East Asia. She received a B.A. with Honors in Theatre and American Studies from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she served as their theatre department’s student general manager, and was the recipient of the Margaret Ellen Clifford Memorial Prize for excellence in theatre.