Arts Advocacy Day in Washington – April 16 & 17 – A Recap

by Laurie Baskin

in Advocacy

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Arts Advocacy Day 2012 was a great day for the arts on Capitol Hill. TCG participated as a National Co-Sponsor as we have for many years. Joining TCG staff for Hill visits was a seasoned and robust group of advocates including Mark Cuddy, Artistic Director, Geva Theatre Center, Rochester, NY (TCG Board Member); Heather Randall, Trustee, New York Theatre Workshop (TCG National Council); Yvonne Seggerman, Executive Director, Gamm Theatre, Rhode Island (Field Representative); Mark Shugoll, Trustee, Arena Stage, Washington, DC (TCG Board Member); and Gerard Stropnicky, Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble, Pennsylvania (Field Representative).

Alec Baldwin delivered the 25th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, which kicked off Arts Advocacy Day on April 16th. Arts advocacy training workshops were the focus of the day on April 16th. There were legislative issue briefings on NEA appropriations, arts education funding, charitable tax incentives, improving the visa process for international artists, funding for cultural exchange and protecting performing arts technology that utilizes White Spaces.

L to R: Gerard Stropnicky, Laurie Baskin, Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-1-RI), Mark Cuddy, Yvonne Seggerman, Teresa Eyring, Heather Randall.

On April 17th, the TCG delegation met with Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-1-RI) and his staff; Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-8-NY) and his staff; the staff of Congressman Lou Barletta (R-11-PA) and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-28-NY); Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and his staff; and staffers in the offices of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) and Senator Gillibrand (D-NY).
Members of Congress were urged to support restoration of funding for the NEA and arts education funding within the U.S. Department of Education; improve visa processing for artists from abroad; increase funding for cultural exchange through the State Department; and preserve tax incentives for charitable giving. Last, Congress was informed about the ongoing concerns regarding protection of wireless microphones used in the performing arts and the need for the FCC to make certain that interference protections for wireless microphones work as intended. Concerns were also shared about the threat that performing arts organizations may have to move their wireless microphone operations to a different part of the broadcast spectrum yet again, and that the costs of such a move would be a burden too large for nonprofit theatres to bear alone.

We heard a similar story in all of our Hill visits – because it’s a presidential election year, no one expects that appropriations bills will be completed before the election and that the federal budget will be decided in a lame duck session at the end of the year. We heard a great deal of support for the NEA and are hopeful that, even in this difficult economic climate, we’ll see at least level funding for the agency. Further, the tax extenders package contains a number of vital charitable giving incentives and this, too, is expected to be taken up in the lame duck session after the election. Members of Congress are interested in comprehensive tax reform and we’ve been told that, “everything is on the table” – including the charitable deduction and tax exemption. It is truly critical for theatre leaders to let your Members of Congress know what services your theatres provide to your communities and how essential donations are to your theatres.

Adding to the excitement and drama of the day was the Space Shuttle Discovery, as it flew overhead. Teresa Eyring and most of our Advocacy team were in Rep. Barletta’s office as it flew by and they quickly scrambled out the window onto a ledge, with the Hill staffer, to watch the incredible sight. I was on my way back to the House side of Capitol Hill with Yvonne Seggerman. I was able to snap a photo (see top of post) of the Shuttle as we walked past the Supreme Court building. It was certainly a memorable day!

Action: It is important for theatre leaders to exert your influence on all of these issues with your Members of Congress. Your elected officials need to hear from you. Please click here to send a message.

Laurie Baskin is TCG’s Director of Government and Education Programs.