Pushing Back with a Permaculture Approach: Fighting for the NEA

As any artist and arts manager knows, threats to the NEA, NEH and PBS have been a continual and frustrating consumer of our precious time and resources.The endless need to push back is beginning to resemble mowing the lawn, a tiresome chore we need to do over and over again. This time, however, the stakes are higher than weeds or tall grass. Threats to cut and to eliminate the NEA have never come from an Administration in power. This time we need a more powerful machine to fight back. Fortunately, that machine is powered by thousands of people willing to do the work necessary to ensure that funding remains in place. 

To fully push back, there are resources available. The important Indivisible document is a blueprint for action, and our own Fundamentals of Arts Management 6th edition includes two “must read” chapters: Cultural Advocacy, co-written by Massachusetts State Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Dan Hunter, explains how the systems works; Arts and Cultural Policy, co-written by Bob Lynch, President of Americans for the Arts (AFTA) and Dr. Craig Dreeszen, details how to effect lasting change.

So what do we do now? Here are some things you can do to start:

1) Join AFTA’s Arts Action Fund or MASSCreative (if a Masschusetts resident) or turn to your own State Arts Advocacy Organization for ideas. Participate in calls to action and stay informed.

2) Maintain a constant, relentless ‘drip’ on your own legislators. Provide them with a weekly, if not daily, email, letter, or phone call, with regular office visits to meet with staff or Congressional leaders added whenever possible. Each contact should include clear and concise stories of the individuals who benefit from the arts and humanities, backed up with data on the economic impact of the federal dollars to your state and community - this is a great way to break up your stories and information in small pieces. Remember that 40% of NEA dollars are given to the statesThese important dollars serve as seed money, matched by state support, and built upon at the local level. We cannot lose these dollars. They will not be easily made up by local support or foundation dollars. We must make our Senators and Congressional leaders understand that cutting or eliminating the NEA will harm each municipality in their district.

Finally, perhaps this time we can take one additional tactic. Perhaps it is time we xeriscape that lawn and adopt a permaculture approach. We build a sustainable future together, demand more dollars, and build a real connection to those in our communities who feel that the arts and humanities are expendable.Through programming and outreach we must work to end the “them” vs “us” duality, and help everyone realize how they personally benefit from the arts and the NEA.