Hill Visits: Your Voice Will Count

by Laurie Baskin

in Advocacy

Post image for Hill Visits: Your Voice Will Count

(Photo credit below*. Leading up to Arts Advocacy Day on March 24-25, TCG is sharing reflections from our board and National Council for the American Theatre on our February visits to Capitol Hill.  Learn more about TCG’s advocacy efforts here, and how you can get involved with Arts Advocacy Day here and here.)

Sarah Bellamy, Co-Artistic Director, Penumbra Theatre

Visiting the Capitol to advocate on behalf of the arts was a thrilling experience! I’ve always loved Washington DC; talking directly with our congresspeople about the work we’re doing and having them make note of our concerns was empowering. And, Tim Jennings and I got to take the underground tram from the senate building to the Capitol to see Senator Amy Klobuchar! We felt very fancy. Thanks to Laurie Baskin and the whole TCG team for preparing all of us theatre folk to storm the Hill on behalf of the arts!

Beth Kronfeld, Trustee, Writers Theatre (and National Council for the American Theatre);

It’s one thing to be aware of the issues impacting our industry, it’s another experience altogether, one of exhilaration and satisfaction, to be a part of supporting true solutions where they germinate.

Tim Jennings, Managing Director, Children’s Theatre Company

When Teresa and I were sitting in my office late last June discussing the opportunity to have a Board meeting somewhere other than NYC, I was excited. TCG, as a representative of the regional theatre movement, is intrinsically a movement that was intended to move beyond the NYC focus, and it organically felt to me like it should have meetings across a variety of regions. Teresa immediately seized on the idea of the January meeting as a possible opportunity.

When Teresa confirmed that we would be hosting the meeting outside of NY and, in fact, in DC the opportunity Laurie presented to do some advocacy work as a group was irresistible to all of us. Not only could we meet in a great city and enjoy the amazing hospitality of the Shakespeare Theatre and Chris Jennings, but we could meet up with our colleagues there and hear about some of their concerns for the national movement.

Advocacy 1For me, the idea of a trip to the hill outside of arts advocacy day also meant that our representatives heard from us more than once/year and en masse. It placed TCG and the trustees of the Council in a terrific, bonding experience as we travelled from office to office, discussing the needs of the field and voicing our concerns about white space, about the NEA funding and about the charitable giving incentives with our representatives and their teams. The personal highlight for me was when Sarah Bellamy and I were whisked across the hill by underground rail by Senator Amy Klobuchar’s staff to meet her on the floor of the senate as she walked out of the vote on the farm bill. The importance of our voices to all of our reps was clear and taken with great seriousness. Congresswoman Betty McCollum promised to immediately talk to the President at an event that evening about appointing a new NEA chair and as that appointment happened almost immediately, I can’t help but think that she and other representatives we all met with that day must have all ganged up on him …but whatever the case, the advocacy ended with a desired result!

The reality of in person advocacy is that, if you stand in the office of a representative of the people, you are one of a very few who will do that in the course of a year. Your voice will count. They hear from thousands, not millions, of constituents and the in person meetings we had represented likely 1 of the 2000 (or less) total hours they are in their office in the course of the year. That is really good odds for being remembered!

It was a terrific day, a great experience and a real bonding moment for me with fellow mid westerners Beth Kronfeld, Sarah Bellamy, Kate Lipuma and TCG’s own Laurie Baskin and one I hope to repeat in the future!


*At top, left to right: Laurie Baskin (TCG staff); Beth Kronfeld, Trustee, Writers Theatre (and National Council for the American Theatre); Kate Lipuma, Executive Director; Writers’ Theatre (and TCG Board); Sarah Bellamy, Co-Artistic Director, Penumbra Theatre (and TCG Board); Tim Jennings, Managing Director, Children’s Theatre Company (and TCG Board).

Middle above, left to right: Tim Jennings, Managing Director, Children’s Theatre Company (and TCG Board); Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Sarah Bellamy, Co-Artistic Director, Penumbra Theatre (and TCG Board).

Directly above, left to right: Beth Kronfeld, Laurie Baskin, Sarah Bellamy, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-4-MN), Tim Jennings and Kate Lipuma. 

laurie_baskin_2Laurie Baskindirector of research, policy & collective action, joined TCG in 1997 as executive assistant to the executive director. In 1999, she was named director of government and education programs and in 2013 was named director of the newly formed department of Research, Policy and Collective Action. Ms. Baskin serves as TCG’s liaison to the Performing Arts Alliance. Prior to joining TCG, Ms. Baskin served for 15 years as executive assistant to the Chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts, working for then-Chairman, Kitty Carlisle Hart. She attended Mount Holyoke College, earned her B.A. from Colgate University, and a degree in arts administration from Adelphi University.