“While no government can call a great artist or scholar into existence, it is necessary and appropriate for the Federal Government to help create and sustain not only a climate encouraging freedom of thought, imagination, and inquiry, but also the material conditions facilitating the release of this creative talent.”
U.S. Code § 951. Declaration of findings and purposes

Yesterday, Laurie Baskin posted her impassioned call for all arts advocates to contact their representatives directly in support of the NEA.  Since that time, the conditions have grown more serious, with 3 amendments to cut or zero the NEA and they could be voted on today or tomorrow.

They are:   1) Offered by Representative Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) – an amendment to eliminate NEA funding.   2) Offered by Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI-7) –  an amendment to reduce funding by $20 million.   3) Offered By Representative Connie Mack (R-14-FL) — an amendment to eliminate NEA funding.

The House of Representatives began debate yesterday to finalize the FY11 spending bills, and these amendments offered are in addition to the $22.5 million cut already recommended by the House Appropriations Committee.

To defeat these amendments, email or call your Representative right now and urge a NO vote on these harmful amendments. To reach your Representative, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Representative’s office. If you’re not sure who your Representative is, you can find that out on the House website using the zip code tool in the upper left hand corner.

After you’ve contacted your Representative directly, join in the #NEA365 action. David J. Loehr of 2AMt took our call to action yesterday and ran with it, suggesting we create a “living document of projects…that enriched your community, projects that would not have been possible without support from the NEA.” Learn more about this project here, and then share your own story of the NEA’s impact on your work and community. If you’re on Twitter, share your story with hashtag #NEA365.

To expand on the possible stories we could share, if your theatre hasn’t received a grant, maybe you worked at a theatre that did. Or maybe an artist whose work changed your life had their life changed by work enabled by an NEA grant. Or maybe the first theatre you ever saw was made possible in part by an NEA grant. While the impact of the NEA is deep and wide, it is not always easily seen, and the stories of #NEA365 can help us give these airy somethings “a local habitation and a name”.

Or if – as Guy Yedwab writes on his blog, Culture Future – you believe that the NEA doesn’t touch your life, write about the work you could accomplish if NEA funding were increased beyond the metaphorical pack of gum.

As Barry Johnson eloquently wrote in his open letter to President Obama:

The arts remind us that we are in this together. That we aren’t alone in our particular thoughts and feelings. That things can be made right and whole, if just for a moment.  They remind us that the individual can do great things. And somehow, they resolve the great tension of American life, that between the rightful autonomy of the individual and the responsibilities that come with belonging to a group. The arts speak to us as individuals and they form communities at the same time. Honestly, I can’t imagine a good outcome to our dire problems — as a community, a nation, a planet — without the complex lessons the arts teach us.

So email or call your Representative right now, and then share the stories of how the NEA has – or could – make a difference in your life and community. As Hallie Flanagan said of the Federal Theatre Project, “we shall mutually create a theatre which need not be just the frosting on the cake. It may be the yeast which makes the bread rise.” And if we don’t rise together to support the NEA, those opposed to it may very well have us all eating cake.