Arts advocacy

We stand for the arts, and so can you!

The Arts foster appreciation and understanding of cultures within our own communities and across the world. In today’s increasingly segmented world, the Arts provide a common language that can serve as a bridge toward greater inclusion.

Arts advocacy is more than crisis management, it is a reminder that the Arts deeply nourish the soul of a community and should not be choked out. Defending them requires an ongoing dialogue about the value and impact in our community. Below are the reasons you should take part in advocacy, as well as resources to get started today!

Why do the arts matter?

1. Arts build community and help make the Lehigh Valley an attractive place to live.

SUPPORTING DATA: The study determined that 6,952 persons donated 323,354 hours volunteering for the 98 participating nonprofits. That is tangible evidence of how the arts are integral in the lives of so many.

2. The Arts touch our lives in very personal ways, directly impacting our humanity.

SUPPORTING DATA: The Power of Story project has an ongoing collection of personal moments shared by residents of the Lehigh Valley. This story library is evidence that the Arts have directly impacted people living in our region. Some have shared intimate stories of how art guided them through hard times, gave them hope in moments of despair, or revealed beauty where darkness seemed to reside. If directly asked, most people can recall a specific memory in which the Arts touched their life.

3. Nonprofit arts organizations & their audiences are essential to the economic well-being of the Lehigh Valley.

SUPPORTING DATA: According to the recently released results from the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, our regional nonprofit arts industry contributes $186.4 million in economic impact annually, providing 6,908 full-time jobs and generating $18.7 million in local and state tax revenues.

What Can I do?

utilize Tools for greater advocacy
2020 Resources:

ArtsVote with Arts Action Fund

The Pittsburgh Foundation

Grantmakers in the Arts


additional Resources:

  • This organization provides tools, research, and training that help arts professionals and regular citizens to cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America.
    • ACTION Fund allows you to sign petitions, read the latest advocacy news, and view other media released by Americans for the Arts
    • Join the Movement for FREE to vote on policy and get alerts of breaking news relating to the Arts


Citizens for the Arts


  • Make appeals on funding for the arts in their districts. We encourage you to call, write or meet with your State Senator and Local Representatives and explain the importance of the Commonwealth’s investment in the Arts, specifically in the Lehigh Valley. All citizens have a right to lobby to their elected officials for the things that matter to them. Advocates take action. A contact sheet for local legislators has been created for easy access to the right information. Click the first button below to access the list. You can also search for legislators by clicking the second button below.
Legislator Contact Sheet Find Your Legislators


Our Advocacy Projects:

The Power of Story Project is an arts advocacy campaign that emphasizes through personal reflection how the arts touch lives.

Every story sends a powerful message, many stories command attention. Your stories, no matter how big or small, connect us to each other and contribute to the evidence that the arts are essential to our community.

Our collection will be shared online and through social media and our web portal. Together, we can raise our collective voices in support of the arts in the Lehigh Valley!

View the Project

Public Presentations

Arts & Access Expo
Contribute to a Vision

arts & access logoThe 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:

Shane Burcaw of Laughing at My Nightmare
Shane Burcaw of Laughing at My Nightmare
  • 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.

Visit the Arts & Access Portal

Start Access Now
Planning a future that includes all of us

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

Download Powerpoint Presentation

Whose business is the Arts?
Seventy-five people attended the fourth Whose Business is the Arts? public forum on June 7, 2012, to examine the relevance of the results of the recent economic impact study, Arts & Economic Prosperity IV.  Cosponsored by the Lehigh Valley Arts Council and Lehigh Valley Partnership, the goal of the event was to stimulate a dialogue to promote sustainability and entrepreneurship in the nonprofit arts sector.

“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

Roland Kushner
Roland Kushner
Ben Cameron
Ben Cameron
Todd Watkins
Todd Watkins

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.
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