March is Arts Advocacy Month

“The arts create connection, community, belonging, and joy. In the worst of times, the arts create all of that and more—and most of all, the arts create hope” from the American for the Arts website.

As a council member of Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs (MACC) I recently had the opportunity to share some brief personal thoughts on the importance of advocacy in the arts sector as March has been designated as Arts Advocacy month in Michigan.

In years past, becoming involved in public policy issues was not much of a priority to me. I felt that it is meant for a certain type of individual to pursue those efforts and it was low on my radar screen. However, I have seen the light in recent years! Not only for the work that I do with my day job as an association leader, but what is needed in the arts community. Everyone needs to have a voice, it is important and I have learned more times than not, that policy makers are not as informed on these subjects as you would think and that is why outreach is vital. Now, I think the responsibility of outreach to policy makers relies on us in order to inform and educate — hence, I wanted to pen this short article.

Over a year ago, the Cultural Advocacy Network of Michigan (CAN) was formed in answer to a need to have a concentrated effort (along with the cultural organizations around the state) to lead in being a voice of influence to all levels of government about the importance of arts and culture. Some of the important wins from CAN (in 2021) centered around advocating for an additional $1.5M increase in funding for MACC.

Michiganders, such as myself, have deep roots in our state and love to live here for a myriad of reasons. How often do we think about the importance arts & culture have within our communities?

Part of my professional background is in economic development. For several years I was directing business attraction and retention for a major suburban city. I can honestly say that back then, we didn’t talk much about ‘sense of place’ or how the arts community is a job creator and the economic impact it has on a particular city. What we sold were the same things most municipalities were promoting – safety, beauty, schools, etc. It is comforting to know there has been a bit of a switch in attitude on what else makes a community. However, the job is far from done.

Communities need to be more informed to the arts identities they have in their community. For example, I have been active with the City of Farmington Hills for several years. The city recently had the foresight to purchase an older high school and retransformed it into a community icon that has a wide variety of offerings – including a vigorous arts and culture element. Also, the City of Novi  acquired a four-acre property, previously owned by David Barr and dancer Beth Dwaihy Barr, includes a home, studio and multiple sculpture installations in a park setting. You need to check out the Artist Residence program at this park.

Think about your community and how art and culture make a difference in the quality of life both for the residential and business community.

Learn more about Michigan’s 2022 Advocacy Day by CLICKING HERE.

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