Thursday, April 19, 2012

Alec, Maureen and arts . . . oh my!

Lots of news happening this week! So in case you missed it, Arts Advocacy Day was this past Tuesday. Artists, arts administrators, and arts supporters gathered in Washington and stormed Capitol Hill to advocate for more money for the arts. One of the highlights of this advocacy push is always the Nancy Hanks Lecture. This year it was delivered by Alec Baldwin, who has been a tremendous supporter of arts over the years. He was introduced by the incomparable Maureen Dowd, who writes speeches that are every bit as clever as her columns for the New York Times, but are improved by her spectacular comic timing. She delivers a funny line with the kind of ease that leads lesser talents to think they can do it too. The kind that I am certain took lots of practice!

Actor and advocate Hill Harper (who has his own foundation to empower underserved youth) spoke earlier in the evening. I wish I could find a copy of his short but perfect advocacy speech to share with clients and students. He followed the Marshall Ganz formula of "Story of Self, Story of Us, Story of Now" to a T. A clear demonstration of why that model is the best for such speeches!

As I listened to the lecture in a full house at the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall, I felt tremendously empowered surrounded by people for whom art is not a "frill" but a way of life. I don't get to experience that very often. President Kennedy looked forward "to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft." But we're not there yet! I get so tired of being told the arts do not deserve "a handout" or "if they can't pay for themselves they have no place in our society," or -- my favorite -- "I believe in arts education for kids. But by high school they need to stop playing around and grow up." If I had a dollar for every time I heard such a comment, I could self-fund the upcoming production of my play Becoming Calvin.

The arts business is good for business, which Mayor Bloomberg is sure to tell anyone who will listen. But it's not just New York that profits from a booming arts economy. All communities benefit, in tangible ways. You probably know that art is good, and may already be a supporter. But if you want to counter the ignorance of nay-sayers like the ones I quoted above, you can arm yourself with facts from Americans for the Arts: 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.

Art: good. . . and good for you!

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