Americans for the Arts is a voice for people of all backgrounds and upbringings, including mine. I am from a small town in Western Central Pennsylvania where I grew up with more deer as neighbors than humans. Arts Advocacy Day (AAD), hosted by Americans for the Arts, helped connect people across all demographic segments of the country and allowed them to speak to their political representatives regarding the importance of art in their daily lives. Arts funding is a pressing concern for millions of Americans. Arts Advocacy Day provides the opportunity for the public to share our concerns with political representatives and participate in democracy.
In elementary school, my favorite part of the day was when it was time to make projects. The empty, white page lured me in by its endless possibilities and flutters of excitement tickled at me when I set crayon to paper. I remember the boundless freedom I felt during those projects. My imagination soared and soon the empty page blossomed with color and life. No matter how it turned out, that pride that I felt about my project was worth more than a thousand teacher’s gold stars or happy face stickers for a job well done. Teachers can see that pride and self-confidence radiate throughout the classroom when students make art. That is why educators joined arts advocates on Washington’s doorstep and flooded the halls of Capitol Hill to relay the importance of art in sparking creativity and self-confidence, which ultimately fuels innovation.
Since I hail from a small town in Pennsylvania, I met with the Pennsylvania advocacy delegates throughout the duration of AAD and learned about the arts industries in my home state, but more particularly Pittsburgh, the closest metropolitan city to my hometown. I was under the incorrect assumption that California, since it is a liberal state and home to Los Angeles which is famous for the arts, was in a solid position to receive government support. To learn that Pittsburgh, PA—Steel City, an industrial giant—received more arts and cultural funding from the state than Los Angeles left me utterly bewildered. This finding completely shifted my outlook. I was planning on returning to my Pennsylvanian roots after graduation to help promote cultural development, but learning that western states are not as well-funded made me reconsider my career trajectory and take a deeper look into equity issues.
The Pennsylvania advocacy delegation collectively asked our representatives to sign FY2019 budget appropriations of $155 million to the National Endowment for the Arts. I also met privately with my district’s State Representative, Glenn “GT” Thompson. The education legislative aide told me that GT supports all house bills that promote the arts and culture. My district is very rural, very Republican, and very conservative. To hear that my representative is taking a proactive stance in regard to the arts left me, quite honestly, rather speechless.
Uniting Rural and Urban Communities
Our contingent also met with Senator Toomey’s office and discussed the economic impact the arts have played in important urban sectors. When discussion came up for economic opportunities in rural communities I was able to represent that portion of the state. We relied on the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study which proves that investing in the arts yields economic benefits. The staffer reaffirmed us that they take everything into consideration. We exited her office to celebrate our small victory and congratulated one another on a job well done.
One thing I discovered from participating in AAD was the overwhelming neglect of rural America. I think more research can be done to address the non-metropolitan areas of the country. Equity in the arts is not just an urban issue. Moving forward, it is important to see more inclusive research and action that accurately reflects both rural and urban America.
Katelyn McClure is an artist, nature-enthusiast, and adventure-seeker who is continuously learning and striving to advance herself and society. She is pursuing an MA in Arts Management from Sotheby’s Institute of Art at Claremont Graduate University. McClure believes that the beauty of humanity is manifested through Art and is the most valuable gift our ancestors could have given us.