Tag: arts advocacy

The Candidates + Artists (Part Three) – City Council

Yesterday, we posted the candidates for Mayor of Atlanta responses to our questionnaire. You may also download the PDF version of their responses HERE.

We also collected responses from candidates for city council. We received a number of replies from almost all of the districts. This was a little tougher to collect. We received bounce-back emails, some candidates didn’t have a website, or no email information was available on their Facebook pages. After qualification, we culled down our list and used the email contact info found on the city’s site. The initial outreach took hours because of the amount of sleuthing it took to find contact emails for candidates. I mention all of this to explain why we don’t have a majority of responses; however, we do have feedback from some viable candidates (about 15 of them).

I am not going to copy city council replies within the body of this blog–it is a lot of pages. However, we created a handy-dandy PDF with city council candidate responses: City Council Candidates’ Responses on the Arts (PDF)

Image of Atlanta
Photo by Ibstidham0. Courtesy of pixabay.

Just a note from me – nobody owns arts advocacy. Not us. Not anyone. In my opinion, the more voices the better. The more artists are engaged, the better. After this election (and very likely runoff(s)) we know one thing will be true: we will have a new mayor and we will have a city council that looks much different than what we have now.

Stay engaged. Stay engaged. Stay engaged. 

Our elected officials work for you. Volunteer. Join your local neighborhood association and NPU. Your voice matters. I know many in our city have been left out for years. I hope to see those people reclaim their voices in local politics. Look around your local meetings. Who is there? Who isn’t? How can you, as an artist (or arts supporter) use your privilege (education, social status, etc.) to widen the circle of inclusion? Diverse cities are stronger.

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We often ask: “how do we keep artists in Atlanta?” This is a complex question that requires a comprehensive-solution based approach. Education, jobs, affordability, transportation–these are part of the solution for artists and other sectors. But often we leave out civic engagement. Making space for artists to create ties to a city–to strengthen their social cohesion also helps retain artists.  That is C4’s interest. We want to see artists call Atlanta home. This is why we entered with more fervor the advocacy space two years ago. We also support artists self-organizing without institutions within their own networks. Together, we can build the Atlanta that truly supports art workers. Having said that, we are happy to continue to reach out to elected officials on policy matters that affect artists. We will keep doing this now and after the election. So! Onward and upward…and into 2018 which will usher in the gubernatorial race! (I need a nap)

Please vote on November 7th. #ArtistsVOTE

Democracy Requires Effort

Several years ago, I attended a Fulton County Budget hearing. There is nothing remarkable about that statement. My staff, board members, colleagues and I have attended dozens. We attend to show support for the funding of Contracts for Art Services. But at one particular meeting, I believe a major cut was on the table so many from the arts community were in attendance, a board member and artist named LaMar Barber took a photo of me speaking to the county commissioners. He posted it on Facebook. I commented on the photo, “Democracy!” LaMar replied, “…requires effort!”

At the Fulton County Budget Hearings in 2013.
At the Fulton County Budget Hearings in 2013.

Democracy requires effort.

That phrase rings in my brain a lot these days. You may be thinking it is because of the recent election. Maybe. It really has more to do with the fact that C4 is making a more concerted effort to be involved “at the local.” Let me preface the rest of this post with this: I am not trying to be self-congratulatory. This work is hard, and there are people I know who are much better at doing it. By “type of work,” I mean, showing up. Being there for the committee meetings, the neighborhood meetings, the council or commissioner meetings. How do they have the energy? How do they have the resources?

In the arts, we often complain about not being invited to the table. I agree with that. However, I also know that you sometimes have to pull up a chair. But when is this work off mission? My answer is that I don’t think that when you work in the Independent Sector that it is ever off mission. Our work intersects often with civic issues. We do ensure that we are staying within the bounds of non-partisan participation, which is within our legal right. Having said that, advocacy, or even just civic engagement, may take focus away from programming. How do you balance that? (I am really asking here)

In some ways, it is part of the growing pains of an organization maturing. In the start-up phase, job duties are fuzzy and resources, including time, are pooled toward creating programs. That quickly moves to maintaining and evaluating programs (maybe even sun-setting programs). As Executive Director, I am working hard to place staff members into roles that best fit their strengths. Roles become more defined. All this to say, being an advocate for the arts is not glamorous. There are no Twitter wars or celebrity endorsements.

I sat through a three hour meeting at City Hall just so I could speak for a minute to voice my concern about the proposed “Arts & Entertainment District.” (Not against a district, just concerned about what constitutes “arts” and how money will be allocated). Many of the meeting points were completely unrelated to our work at C4. I was hungry. Famished. This isn’t heroic work. I was mostly thinking about what I needed to do when I got back to the office, and how I wished the meeting time would fly by faster. This morning I missed another city meeting because my van started acting weird. Instead of driving to the 8 am meeting, I drove to my local mechanic. I texted Audrey, Education Manager, and she went to the meeting in my stead. The meeting went on without me.

Democracy requires effort

It is also slow. When it comes to government, I often think of that aphorism, “a camel is a horse designed by committee.” The process is intentionally slow. Our founding fathers designed our government process with a plodding pace in mind to protect citizens from wide sweeping change that came too swiftly. Campaign promises are mostly rhetoric. You have to vet ideas to ensure the process is in the best interest of the people–and often, unfortunately, it is only in the best interest of part of the people. The people who have the time or capacity to show up.

It is not that I believe that all campaign promises are empty. It is just that the heroes I see are the people who show up when they can, they research the issues, they present facts, they appeal to people’s common sense and humanity, they sit through the long meetings, miss lunch, they juggle relationships and maybe children, and they do it over and over again. People like Kyle Kessler with the Center for Civic Innovation. Kyle has an amazing knack for this work. He about local politics, zoning issues, Atlanta history, meeting dates–someone needs to download Kyle’s brain. I am always in awe of how much he knows and how often he shows up.

image of greek senate
Old School Democracy

Leveraging Strengths

Over the last year, C4 has grown its advocacy committee so we can divide up meetings and tasks. Most of what we are doing is just listening. Listening and learning. There are a myriad of policies that affect the lives of artists and of arts organizations. Typically, advocacy efforts have been focused around funding. While important, there are a lot of missed opportunities when that is our only focus. There are several organizations that educate and advocate for the arts in metro Atlanta. There are also dozens of organizations that may make great cross-sector partners. Our advocacy platform is posted online. If you want to get involved, let us know.

Democracy, or even a republic, takes effort. It feels as though the nation is in turmoil some days. I am not going to suggest to anyone that national issues are not important–they certainly are important. This is a “yes, and…” moment. They are important but so are local policies, legislation, ordinances, etc. Let’s work together. Let our efforts be amplified through unity.

 

Arts Advocacy Survey – Preliminary Findings

City SkylineBack in December, C4 Atlanta launched an arts advocacy survey in order to inform our Advocacy Committee about the needs of individual arts workers in the metro Atlanta area. In September of 2015, our Board of Directors identified a need to advocate on behalf of individuals, as other groups existed already to advocate on behalf of organizations. However, arts professionals sometimes feel different pressures and are affected by different catalysts than larger organizations. Therefore, in the interest of transparency and due diligence, our committee wished to take action only after taking the temperature of the community at large.

Today, I am pleased to release to you a preliminary look at some of the data that we have uncovered during this process. The PDF available below is a summary of the raw data that has been presented to the committee. Each question posed to the survey respondents is listed at the top, with accompanying data visualizations and key points detailed below.  We are nowhere near finished crunching numbers, and some of the means we have used in this preliminary release of data were not so much used for accuracy as much as trying to identify key patterns quickly. Therefore, some of the short answer questions have been represented as Word Clouds in order to give a quick impression of reoccurring words and phrases. Please note that these visuals only account for the frequency of single words, not phrases or groups of words such as names.

Over the coming weeks, we will work harder to delve deeper into the numbers and answers in order to make more comprehensive correlations. Of particular interest to us is the data regarding wage vs. other expenses paid by artists for living and working. We intend to take a closer look at these numbers on and individual by individual basis. In order to better understand the implication of some of the data included regarding wage, we have included some government benchmarks for reference.

For those who took part in the survey, we thank you for your participation. Special shout outs go out our friends at Burnaway and Atlanta Contemporary for helping us to get the word out about this initiative! Thanks for helping us to reach deeper into the arts community.

For additional questions regarding our advocacy committee, survey data or our advocacy platform, please reach out to actionteam@c4atlanta.org.

Advocacy Survey Preliminary Data

 

Arts Day at the Capitol!

From our friends at Georgia Arts Network…

Join the Georgia Arts Network on January 24th for Arts Day at the Capitol!

The arts community is partnering with our friends in Georgia’s tourism industry for Tourism Day at the Capitol on Monday and Tuesday, January 23rd & 24th. In these tough times, focusing on the positive economic impact of the arts as a vehicle which attracts tourism dollars to Georgia is a great way to convince skeptics of the need to invest in the arts now!

For the event, the Georgia Arts Network is partnering with: Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureau, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Restaurant Association, and the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association.

You can find out more details about the event at the GACVB website, and you can register to attend HERE (it’s free to attend, other than the optional luncheon). Please plan to to attend the January 24th arts break-out session at 9:30am.

If you plan to attend, please register your attendance now with the GACVB and then inform the Georgia Arts Network by writing to us at contact@gaartsnetwork.org (please include the full names, email addresses, and organizations of all attendees).

You should also plan to schedule meetings that day with your local legislator; we would appreciate it if you would let us know when your meetings are, so we can facilitate coordination between arts groups in neighboring areas.

This year it is critical to speak with legislators about the need to increase funding for the Georgia Council for the Arts in order to secure that Georgia receives the full matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Please help advocate for the arts in Georgia by attending this event and letting your voice be heard in support of the arts community! Register now!