I was watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and tweeted a comment that this ceremony was the arts. I had a fellow arts tweep politely tell me that we may not want to connect the ceremony to the arts since the general public may not like it (or understand the cultural differences) and it would become an argument for not supporting the arts. It was a funny little exchange. On the one hand, I see this person’s point, on the other hand, I feel that we need to continually bring awareness to the fact that the arts are all around us and providing for us.
Maybe we do need to be more selective for bringing about awareness in order to maintain quality control about how people see the arts. Or do we? The arts are subjective. What I enjoy may not be what others prefer, but it is still the arts. That’s the beauty of the arts. I had deleted my tweet, but maybe it would have been better to keep it. I was after all enjoying the children’s choirs and some of the theatrical elements of the ceremony. Silencing my arts advocacy voice may not have been the right choice.
Our arts advocacy so far as been a series of statements that promote the benefits of the arts. This is all well and good, but the main problem I see is the fact that the general public does not understand that they are connected to the arts daily on an ongoing basis. They are not seeing the value of the arts since they are not seeing their personal connection to the arts.
What has me all charged up about this thought was a quote from an Op-ed I read this morning (Philly.com). Valerie V. Gay, Executive Director of Art Sanctuary in Philadelphia wisely stated:
“We have to stop just saying that the arts are accessible and actually take the hand of members of the community and show them their connection to us — no matter their ethnicity, economic status, gender or education level. All people can find themselves within our work. We just have to show them.”
Right now, in relation to fighting against arts cuts, advocating for arts funding, shouldn’t we be doing all we can to point out the arts that surround us? “We just have to show them.”
My second point is that not only could we start bringing more awareness about the arts that surround our everyday lives, but it would be most helpful if we as an arts community each do our part in arts advocacy work. I was on an #artsmgtchat (Arts Management Chat) last week where they asked the participants to start following the main arts advocacy people and start retweeting their messages. I like this idea, but I’d like to take it further. Everyone can lend their voice for bringing more awareness to the arts that surround us. Everyone can take a leading role by speaking out for the arts. We all have a personal connection to the arts, and it is time for us to start sharing our stories and helping to point out the arts in our daily lives. With this new energy, others will begin to see their connection to the arts too.
One of my favorite tweeps is passionate about pointing out the connection of classical music and popular culture. This is exactly what I am advocating for – we could use more people doing this type of work. Plus, it would be fantastic to get our followers (our audience) to help spread the word as well and add to the collective voice for arts advocacy. Momentum for arts advocacy – wouldn’t that be delicious?
To summarize, arts advocacy has been mainly about attempting to have people see the benefits of the arts. I feel we need to start with something more basic, having a collective voice to point out that the arts are a big part of our daily lives. What would we do without the arts? Lastly, we could use all the support we can get. With each of us adding our voice for arts advocacy, together we can create the awareness needed to achieve the arts support that is deserved.
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Audience Development Specialists
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
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