Updates from Arts Advocacy Day in Washington DC

Amidst news of President Trump’s proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, a record 10 Oklahoma arts leaders traveled to Washington DC for Arts Advocacy Day last week. Americans for the Arts has organized the event for 30 years.

The timing couldn’t have been better for uniting with other advocates from across the country and informing our members of Congress about the positive impact of the National Endowment for the Arts in our state.

We were pleased that the immediate threat of elimination seems less likely, but we are very concerned about sizable budget cuts.

Our urgency remains to demonstrate to our Federal representatives the strong local impact of arts funding and the importance of the National Endowment of the Arts as an efficient tool for that impact.

Oklahoma arts leaders met with Senator James Lankford.

Oklahoma arts leaders met with Senator James Lankford.

The Oklahoma team met with US Senator James Lankford as well as in groups with legislative staff members in 5 of our other 6 congressional offices.

Overall, we know that our presence in DC helped amplify the voices of arts supporters across our state. We provided data, told stories about the local impact and asked for our elected representatives’ support of federal funding for arts and culture.

Much of the conversations in our congressional meetings centered around deletion of arts and culture funds in President Trump’s first budget proposal for Federal Fiscal Year 2018, which starts October 1, 2017.

Multiple legislative assistants and congressional staffers reminded us that no president’s budget proposal has been accept intact by Congress. Several also emphasized that the President’s budget proposal is intendent to start the long conversation about how federal funds are spent in the upcoming year.

Congress continues to negotiate the end of Federal Fiscal Year 2017, which has been operating on Continuing Resolution that will last through April 28. Several staff members suggested that Congress won’t begin negotiating the FFY18 budget until the summer.

Since Oklahoma’s congressional members serve on a variety of committees, their interests are quite different. We brought information relevant to their constituents and leadership area.

For instance, Senator Jim Inhofe and Representative Steve Russell’s offices were quite interested in the Oklahoma Arts Council successful launch of the Arts and the Military Initiative.

Most of the Oklahoma arts leaders team gathered together to get briefings in DC.

Most of the Oklahoma arts leaders team gathered together to get briefings in DC.

We are grateful to the Oklahoma advocates who represented our state and sector so well, including:
Todd Cunningham, Executive Director, Arts Alliance Tulsa, Tulsa
DouglasElder Executive Director, Norman Firehouse Art Center, Norman
Erinn Gavaghan, Executive Director, Norman Arts Council, Norman
Suzanne Heppel, Music Therapist American Music Therapy Association, Piedmont
Jessica James, Graduate Student, Edmond
Julia Kirt, Executive Director, Oklahomans for the Arts, Oklahoma City
Katie Prior, High School Student and Founder Youth Trumpet & Taps Corps, Moore
Chuck Thompson, President & CEO, Republic Bank & Trust, Norman
Debby Williams, Public Art Liaison, Norman Arts Council, Norman

We also were pleased to invite Amber Sharples, Executive Director, Oklahoma Arts Council to share information about how the Oklahoma Arts Council leverages National Endowment for the Arts funds in our state. Fortunately, she was in DC to participate in the Arts Education Partnership State Policy Symposium.

Watch for more updates on Federal advocacy on Americans for the Arts website. Read more about the impact of the National Endowment for the Arts on Oklahoma our blog.

Tonnie Dosser