Last Tuesday was Arts Advocacy Day, and I’d like to send a huge thanks to this year’s TCG delegation that included: Curt Columbus, artistic director of Trinity Repertory Company in Rhode Island; Elisabeth Morten, trustee at Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut and TCG National Council member; Laura Penn, executive director of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society; Gerard Stropnicky, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble in Pennsylvania; as well as TCG board members: Debbie Chinn; Mark Shugoll, immediate past chair of Arena Stage in Washington, DC; Mark Valdez, national coordinator of the Network of Ensemble Theaters in California; and Clyde Valentin, executive director of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival in Brooklyn, New York; along with TCG staffers Laurie Baskin, director of government & education programs; and Alissa Moore, government & education programs associate. We joined about 600 other advocates from across the country—all of us there to make the case for the arts and arts education. The day kicked off with Kevin Spacey’s beautiful speech at the Nancy Hanks Lecture.
Our day at the Capitol was comprised of briefing sessions and meetings with Members of Congress or their staff in districts where the TCG delegates work and/or live. We were fortunate that we were able to meet directly with a number of Senators and Representatives. Curt Columbus even accompanied Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, as he headed into the Senate chambers for a vote, and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez of Brooklyn sought Clyde Valentin’s advice on places to take hip-hop dance classes since she wants to learn. Congressman Lou Barletta, Jerry Stropnicky’s representative, is a tea party candidate who voted in favor of the Wahlberg amendment that proposes to slash the NEA by an additional $20 million beyond the House Appropriations Committee’s recommended cut. We spent a good deal of time with his staffer, and Jerry was able to inform him about the profound and deep relationship between the Bloomsburg Ensemble and its rural Pennsylvania community. (This particular staff person also told us he was an actor in high school.)
Mark Valdez and Liz Morten led a conversation with Congressman Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles, in which they thanked him for his strong support of the arts, but asked him to reconsider his position on tax policy and charitable deductions for not-for-profits. In the offices of Senator Barbara Mikulski, who co-chairs the Senate Cultural Caucus, the delegation covered numerous issues, including the need for representatives in districts adjacent to Washington to help maintain local funding for the arts in DC. The message we received from many of our legislators, in particular Velázquez and Becerra, is that, in this environment, we need to fight and fight hard to maintain the things that we care about. In other words, now is the time to be very organized and vocal with your Representatives, especially if they are in favor of deeper cuts for the arts, as well as de-funding NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or dismantling charitable tax incentives. There was also a sense of weariness over the inability to reach a conclusion on the 2011 budget and concern about a government shutdown (which happily was averted last Friday night). I was fortunate to be able to attend a White House briefing where members of the Domestic Policy Council discussed priorities and challenges for the administration. Alec Baldwin also made remarks and Hill visits—I must say that he is a powerful (and entertaining) advocate.
As you may have heard, TCG is introducing a new and affiliate member benefit—xchange! It is a theatre-specific listings community, where you can buy and sell items and share opportunities with colleagues around the country. We created this service as a way for you to better connect, share resources that will ultimately help save costs, earn revenue and minimize waste—login to get started! We hope this new venture will be a valuable resource for you. We’ve already received some great input, and will be adapting the site over time, so we’d love to know if it’s useful and if you’d like to see particular improvements.
Finally, the early bird deadline for the National Conference is today!