How are the arts doing in the US and what can YOU do?

The news is full of what’s happening in advocacy at the federal level, but the state level is where individuals and organizations can make the most difference.

State legislative bodies pass laws like Congress, but state policies are customized to each state’s needs and their impact is more direct. Take the time to research how state policy is made because this information is critical to effective advocacy. Advocating for state policy begins with contacting your designated legislator as an individual or partnering with your state arts agency as an organization. Many of the advocacy technology services like Daily Action and Resistbot are geared toward federal advocacy, but there are resources available on the web that can help individuals and organizations advocate on the state level.

Find your State Arts Agency. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) has a State Arts Agency Directory with all of the state art agencies. Connecting with a state arts agency is helpful because they keep up to date with arts-related policy and advocacy efforts in your resident state.

Contact your State Legislators. Each state has its own search engine to help find your state legislator. Check out what the Pennsylvania General Assembly search engine looks like.

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Overall, advocacy can be accomplished based on an individual or an organization’s effort. An individual’s perspective provides legislators an opportunity to learn about how the arts impact their constituent’s lives through personal stories. Organizations have the advantage because they have access to data and success stories of how they impact their communities. According to Thomas Birch, long-time legislative counsel to NASAA, nonprofit organizations have valuable research useful for lobbying. Stories and data move people to take action, which are both important to present legislators to act and make an impact. Here are some helpful toolkits of how to improve your federal and state arts advocacy efforts:

Now with all these tools available, it is time to take action by doing one or all of the following:

Individuals. Stay updated. Sign up for relevant newsletters and follow legislators and state arts agencies on social media.

Organizations. Collect your data! Share success stories and insights of how your arts organization positively impacts the community.

Individuals and Organizations: Collaborate. Reach out to the community, plan and attend group efforts like letter-writing and calling campaigns. If the resources are available, make in-person group visits and share your stories and data to legislators.

Overall, the key to productive advocacy is consistency. Set time each week to advocate routinely to call, email, or fax your legislators until you see results. If your advocacy efforts create results, thank your legislators for their work.

Try out and explore what advocacy tools work best for you and share your experience with us in the comments below.