Former Bush Chief Strategist and Others Address WESTAF Arts Advocacy Delegation; Readings Available to All

Mar 9, 2012

WESTAF is an organization with deep experience in organizing substantive convenings and whose leadership is strategic and thoughtful about arts advocacy. The time spent in Washington included a combination of seminar time featuring a range of speakers and visits with members of Congress.


Speakers at the advocacy forum included political consultant Matthew Dowd—chief strategist on the winning re-election campaigns for President George W. Bush in 2004 and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006—in an informal presentation and Q & A; Ann Guthrie Hingston, a government relations consultant, on the topic “Working Across the Aisle on Arts Issues”; Jennifer Greenamoyer, Senior Government Liaison of the American Institute of Physics, with a briefing entitled “The Science Community and Congress Today”; and a presentation and discussion with Jamie Bennett, Chief of Staff of the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.


In addition to meeting directly with legislators—essential given the importance of federal funds to state arts agencies as granted through the National Endowment for the Arts—the purpose of the gathering was to create a cohort of highly informed and engaged arts advocates from the western United States.


Participants scheduled their own visits to their Senate and Congressional offices.  WESTAF provided guidance on clear, concise talking points and a customizable leave-behind document.


Attendees read a selection of advance readings compiled by WESTAF. The background reading provided a common frame of reference for discussion and served to update the group on several advocacy-related issues as well as raise questions and prompt new ways of looking at longstanding challenges. They also provided lessons and inspiration through an account from The New York Times of the once unlikely but now successful legalization of gay marriage in New York State. WESTAF has agreed to make these readings available to arts advocates via the attached PDF.  The second reading from the trip, Grantmakers in the Arts' issue of The Reader focused on funding, is available here.


The thoughtfully planned and intentional leadership and advocacy seminar was lauded by participants. Dalouge Smith, Vice Chair for California Arts Advocates, said that he appreciated the range of speakers in the seminar component of the trip and commented, “It was fantastic to hear from the science community and to learn about their struggles around science education, which are very similar to arts education’s struggles. It was heartening to learn that the arts haven’t been targeted exclusively.” Smith felt the visits to Senate and legislative offices were well organized and worthwhile, noting, “Going into Congressional offices that don’t normally get a visit from members of the arts community was exciting, and they were happy to have us. We discovered dancers and actors among staff members, and they carry those experiences into their work on Capitol Hill. They were interested to hear about the NEA and the work reaching all parts of the state. There is tremendous value in talking with people.”

Image: Matthew Dowd

Tags: WESTAF, lobbying, arts advocacy, Washington DC

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