The Power of Story: Arts Advocacy Organizations Use Compelling Anecdotes

Sep 30, 2010


“The most effective way to communicate the benefits of the arts and creativity to state and local leaders is to share compelling stories about how the arts make meaningful contributions to the economy, education and community life.”


                                    - Ohio Arts Council website


Anecdotes, case studies, and stories are being used to powerful effect in support of arts advocacy by a number of organizations throughout the country. The approaches vary, from searchable databases to straightforward presentations of compelling stories in e-blasts.


"I got responsible for my violin, and that got me responsible for myself."

There's a row of chairs outside Principal Marsha Guerrero's office, and week after week, that's exactly where ten-year-old Andres found himself. His disciplinary problems were nothing special, says Guerrero, a twenty-year veteran as an elementary school principal. "He just needed to find something positive to belong to." So when Andres, out of the blue, told her he wanted to play the violin like the kids in another class, the principal quickly agreed. That was months ago. Guerrero hasn't seen Andres in the chairs since.

Help us keep the arts in schools!

The California Alliance for Arts Education used the short story above to show the power of the arts in young people’s lives and the need for arts education.


The Arts: Part of the Solution – Searchable Database

The Ohio Arts Council has created an outstanding advocacy tool via their searchable story database Arts--Part of the Solution which brings to life the work of the Ohio Arts Council and its constituents. The database is searchable by topic category—such as Academic Excellence through the Arts or Bringing Unity to Communities—by Senate Legislative District, House Legislative District, and by County. Each profile includes a concise summary of the project and its impact on the community, an image, a quote from a participant or civic leader, and a state map pinpointing the project’s location.


Take pART - Public Value Stories from Citizens around Ohio

In a two-pronged approach to using stories for arts advocacy, the Ohio Arts Council also has an initiative that gathers stories from citizens throughout the state about the role and power of the arts in their lives.

From the Ohio Arts Council website:

In early 2008 the OAC launched a new initiative called Take pART that aims to gather public value stories from citizens around Ohio. The OAC introduced the idea of public value to its constituents in 2004 as a core concept for Ohio's arts organizations as we move into a new era for the arts. Public value is difficult to define in concrete terms. The most important thing about public value is that it is something that exists within each community - it is created by the citizens, businesses and organizations of that community. The OAC can't define public value for the entire state or even for a particular community or organization. Our goal is to help our constituents seek out and define the public value within their own work, within their own community, and to, in turn, help reveal that public value.


The Healing Power of Art

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has also gathered stories of the importance and influence of the arts on people’s lives and has made those stories available on its website.

"On the day of the workshop, I greeted the attendees as they began to arrive. One older woman in particular, who was escorted in by a friend, appeared to be in a great deal of pain. She was slightly hunched over and very thin. It took her some time to get settled into her seat. She also seemed distracted or bored, as if someone had to persuade her to come to the workshop."


Continue reading Qaadira's story.


From the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s website, which includes 60 stories illustrating the importance of the arts to people’s lives

Image: Anupama Mirle, Master Artist (in back), Ohio Arts Council Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, and apprenticing dancer.


Tags: Arts Advocacy, Stories, Anecdotes

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