Teachers. Choir director. Singer. Manager. Stage crew. These are just a few of the many hats we all learn to wear as choral educators. The thought of adding another task to our list often seems daunting, and a little intimidating, especially when it includes words like “legislation,” “Capitol Hill,” “lobbyist,” or other congressional lingo.
In its 35th year, the Americans for the Arts National Arts Action Summit (NAAS) provides a place for us to learn about current legislation, how it could impact arts educators like us, and ways we can support their work. But we all know it can be hard to find time at this point in the school year or choir season to step into a three-day virtual summit. That’s where your ACDA Advocacy & Collaboration (A&C) Committee comes in! We attended this year’s summit and are excited to present this overview to you.
In this blog post, you’ll get a quick overview of the summit (and how to access more information if you want to learn for yourself) but then the real focus will fall on the quick action and tangible things you can do right now to support arts education.
The summit featured a variety of speakers and clearly outlined a few objectives, some related to policy and others related to equity and access. Overall, we walked away from the sessions with answers to these questions:
- What arts-related bills are on the Hill right now?
- What can I do to support those bills and why is it important?
- How can I navigate funding opportunities (or earmarks) to support our projects?
- In what ways do we get involved and help?
Let’s focus in on #4, as that’s the extra hat we are considering wearing. Great news! It isn’t much different than what we already do – it’s all about building relationships. Phew! A hat we know very well. But with whom are we building relationships? For some of us, that will be our local administration or communities, for others that may be city or state governments, and for some, it could mean reaching out to national representatives and letting them know the actual ask. Let’s talk about these “ask” steps now:
- Connect with your state’s arts advocate to stay in the know about when things are happening in your state (https://www.
americansforthearts.org/ advocate provides a list by state (go to By Location in the navigation bar); send them an email and get on their newsletter for when things are happening in your state or area).
- Sign up for the newsletter from your state and national representatives and senators.
- Follow your state and national legislators on social media.
- Establish a positive relationship by regularly emailing them with updates about your work and the impact the arts are having in your community. Regular updates build trust, especially when you have a specific ask or action.
Not sure what to write? While there were many handouts collected from the sessions, the 2022 Facts and Figures document is our favorite. It gives us hard data to use in conversation. Broken down by state, each page provides figures and hard data we can use to advocate and support arts education. But – Who are we telling these stories to? Who do we need to advocate to and what do we say?
One of the summit sessions included a House representative who serves as the co-chair of the Arts Caucus. They gave us two clear steps when communicating with legislators:
Keep the focus local – specifically how it impacts you and your community.
Use the data on what arts education does for kids especially (attendance, outcomes, etc.) – these are good reminders.
Looking good in your new hat or feeling like you have built a relationship and want to be a part of the asking? NAAS Arts Education 2022 Asks includes specifically what to ask for and why, with data to support. Put on your hat and write that email or schedule that virtual meeting.
There are seven bills arts advocacy folks have been keeping their eyes on – this is the most we’ve ever had on the Hill at one time! Go follow your local representatives on social media, sign up for their newsletters, and if you feel comfortable, send them an email with the asks specifically for arts education outlined in this document.
Looking for more facts and figures to make your case? Here’s the best place to start.
Missed NAAS? It’s not too late to register for on-demand viewing of this year’s sessions. Visit the registration page.
Excited about these kinds of projects? The ACDA Advocacy & Collaboration Committee has a few openings as a few of our members are finishing up their tenure. You should apply to join us! More details: https://acda.org/about-us/
Dr. Emily Williams Burch chairs ACDA’s Advocacy & Collaboration Committee. Dr. Burch has served in various positions for ACDA at the state, regional, and national level in a variety of roles, including co-programming chair and honor choir coordinator for the Southern Region ACDA conferences since 2014. You can subscribe to her podcast for music educators wherever you get your podcasts, or at EmilyBurch.org/podcast.