Advocate for the Arts
How would you like to see your state tax dollars spent?
Arts advocacy requires an ongoing conversation with both our elected and appointed government officials. Since negotiations for the state budget have stalled, it’s time for citizens to help to set priorities. Let the Commonwealth’s current budget impasse prompt you to contact them and remind them with a personal story of how much the arts mean to you and your family.
A father wrote to me about the sensory-friendly performance of a children’s play attended by his child with autism. They thanked Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre for their effort to understand the daily challenges faced by families like theirs. “Our son may not have the chance to do so many things in life that others do,” they said. “It was a very special day.”
A thriving arts community does not exist in isolation. While engagement in the arts affects people in deeply quiet ways, the arts experience can unite us around shared values:
- We believe that everyone in the Lehigh Valley deserves access to our rich diverse arts culture.
- We take pride in locally produced arts experiences; they are integral to the region’s cultural infrastructure.
- We realize that the arts are essential to our economic vitality and quality of life.
The Lehigh Valley is the third largest region in the state; it deserves recognition and its equal share of reallocated state tax dollars. An individual story sends a powerful message. Many stories command attention.
Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Arts Council
Arts advocacy requires an ongoing dialogue about the value and the impact of the arts in our community. The Lehigh Valley Arts Council nurtures that dialogue throughout the region, reaching the community with disabilities and their families, the educational community and their students, the business and government communities, and the thousands of arts patrons who seek access to the Lehigh Valley’s rich cultural offerings.
The arts foster self-expression and self-determination while respecting others with an opposing point of view. These are key attributes in our democracy, and like freedom, require vigilance to protect them. As citizens, we have a responsibility to partake in the dialogue.
Arts & Access Expo
The Lehigh Valley Arts Council hosted the Arts & Access Expo on November 10, 2014, allowing for an opportunity to engage with the community in an open dialogue about providing inclusiveness. Held at Lehigh Valley Health Network, it provided an opportunity to acknowledge, encourage, and celebrate the innovative programming that has expanded access to the arts for people with disabilities in our region. In bringing together the Lehigh Valley’s arts and cultural organizations, social services groups, members of the disability community, and supporters, we were able to begin the conversation that will continue through our Arts & Access yearlong celebration – one that supports greater inclusion for all people.
The Expo featured:
- A speech by Shane Burcaw, founder of the nonprofit Laughing at My Nightmare, which supports families affected by Muscular Dystrophy. Shane is an author, motivational speaker, and award-winning blogger, and though his approach to overcoming adversity is in a humorous way, his message was clear: people with disabilities want to enjoy every aspect of life, arts and culture included, just as anyone would. He reflected on having trouble accessing the arts with family and friends, and he gave encouragement to make the effort toward greater inclusion.
- Panel Q&A with leaders in our cultural region and representatives of social agencies, discussing the question, ““How do I start expanding cultural access?” as well as showing support with the theme, “Moving forward is easier than you might think.”
- Tables with exhibits of Lehigh Valley resources and services
- Networking and conversations to begin advancing in cultural accessibility in our region
Continue to advocate for the arts and inclusiveness in the Lehigh Valley by becoming involved in our Arts & Access program.
Start Access Now
On November 21, 2013 the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, in cooperation with the Lehigh Valley Health Network, was pleased to host Betty Siegel, Esq., Director of VSA and Accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, for Start Access Now, a community discussion on accessibility.
Ms. Siegel’s talk addressed the civil rights of people with disabilities, good customer service practices, and the implications of the Americans for Disabilities Act for nonprofit organizations.
“We can learn from her expertise and compassion on how to become more inclusive. The Lehigh Valley arts community has grown into a significant economic engine; it also has the capacity to be a catalyst for change. It’s time to lead in this arena.”-Randall Forte, Executive Director
Whose business is the Arts?
“As we begin to meet the challenges ahead, it is important to recognize that together we gain access to a broader perspective, discover brave solutions, and advance our common interest.”-Randall Forte, Executive Director
Presenters at the Public Forum:
- Roland Kushner, professor of business at Muhlenberg College, took to the podium to present and interpret the latest results of Arts & Economic Prosperity IV relative to the economy in the Lehigh Valley. The message was clear: The Arts are great for business in the Lehigh Valley—to the tune of $208 million in economic activity annually.
- Keynote Speaker Ben Cameron, Program Director for Arts Grants at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, acknowledged the passion and dedication that artists and administrators devote to their arts discipline—and then challenged them to adapt to the changing cultural landscape. He raised the question, are we in the midst of an ARTS reformation – where institutions must change to continue fulfilling their missions? One approach is to adapt the entrepreneurial spirit.
View Keynote Address by Ben Cameron
“What if the role of the arts is no longer only to present products to be consumed, but to provide experiences that will serve as springboards to our communities’ own creativity? Can we think of our organizations, not as self-contained institutions, but as platforms designed to aggregate creative energies?”
-Ben Cameron, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
- Todd Watkins, Executive Director of the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation at Lehigh University, followed with an interactive session designed to expand an organization’s capacity to imagine new ways to raise earned revenues.
The attendees were divided into six groups to examine the case studies of local nonprofit organizations; a professional facilitator was assigned to each group to nurture innovative thinking and to keep members of the group on task. Each group was divided into two teams and each team was asked to produce five revenue-generating ideas by advancing ideas for potential new partners, customers and engagement. Afterwards, the teams swapped and evaluated each other’s ideas according to a set of criteria that Watkins provided. Finally, each team shared the most promising idea to the entire audience.
The Lehigh Valley Arts Council continues its advocacy work on two fronts:
- educating the public about the value and economic impact of the arts; and
- educating the nonprofit arts sector about creating more effective business models.