Arts orgs descend on Capitol Hill

Reps set out to push for a variety of goals

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leaders of arts organizations from around the country descended on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to trumpet the importance of the arts to the economy and culture.

The ad hoc lobbying of Congress was part of Arts Advocacy Day, an annual event co-sponsored by Americans for the Arts and the Congressional Arts Caucus, along with numerous other arts orgs.

Armed with notebooks full of talking points, the arts reps set out to push for a variety of goals, among them the passage of House Resolution 1126, which would allow donors of literary, musical, artistic or scholarly compositions to deduct the fair market value of the works. It is sponsored by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), recipient of this year’s Public Leadership in the Arts Award.

Defeat of President Obama’s proposal to limit deductions of charitable donations by wealthy Americans was also on the list. Other popular topics included the restoration of full funding to the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the importance of the arts as an economic engine for communities. One advocate’s personal quest was to rail against the U.S. State Dept. for its harsh treatment of Chinese arts execs seeking U.S. visas in response to her university’s invitations.

This year’s lobbyists were energized by a $50 million provision in the administration’s stimulus package to support arts-related employment for nonprofits, as well as funding for the arts and humanities endowments.

The arts advocates were also buoyed by recent gains on the coalition-building front, which were noted by Americans for the Arts prexy Robert Lynch. They include an important endorsement of the arts by the Conference Board, a major business group that recently cited creativity — a skill enhanced through arts education — as the most important attribute desired by businesses among job applicants.

“We’ve had a very good year,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Arts Caucus co-chair, who was among lawmakers who greeted the arts execs at a breakfast pep rally to start the campaign. It was followed by a hearing on job-related issues before a House subcommittee, and personal visits with congressmen and senators.

Also participating in the advocacy event were musicians Wynton Marsalis, Josh Groban and Linda Ronstadt. Marsalis gave a passionate address Monday night about the importance of the arts to cultural identity and the sobering decline in arts appreciation in the U.S., while Groban and Ronstadt told personal stories about growing up with music to members of a House Interior subcommittee chaired by Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.)

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