Drew Halford - Arts Advocacy Day

Our very own Drew Halford, second year arts management student, went down to Capitol Hill this month to advocate for the arts.  Advocating on behalf of artists, educators, and supporters in Washington D.C. is no easy feat.  We commend Drew for his time, effort, and dedication to furthering arts funding, education, and resources.  Thanks to Drew, Americans for the Arts, and countless others, the National Endowment for the Arts's budget was actually increased despite previous efforts to cut the NEA all together.  Words can't express how impressed, proud, and thankful we are for all of the effort put in on behalf of arts funding.  Thank you, Drew!

"On the eve of President-Elect Donald Trump’s Inauguration, an article was published detailing his plan for the complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. This wasn’t completely unexpected by any stretch, but it meant advocates for the arts had to fight even harder. And for those advocates, there was a platform, Arts Advocacy Day.

For 31 years, this day marked a time for artists, administrators, and teachers to take to Capitol Hill in D.C to talk congressmen and women about the importance of the arts and their funding across all levels in America. In 2017, the efforts worked and funding was maintained, even with a slight increase. But as predicted, the same threat to funding was proposed in 2018. Last year, I sat on the sidelines, but this year, I made the trip to the Capitol to make my case.

Before you talk to members of Congress, there is a “crash course” day where attendees learn about the numbers (and the stories) that you can use in your meetings. We were all given the official “2018 Congressional Arts Handbook”, which wasn’t as much as a handbook as it was a graduate thesis full of very useful facts and figures to make our case. It covered an incredible amount of material. For example, did you know that arts and culture made up 4.2% of the U.S’s GDP in 2017? The arts mean business in America.

On Hill day, all the participants met in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room, where JFK announced his candidacy for presidency and where hearings about the Titanic sinking were held. Before my first congressman hearing, the crowd received a speech from current NEA Chair Jane Chu. Feeling incredibly inspired I headed to my meeting, ready to fight for arts funding, armed to the teeth with economic impact stats. But to my surprise, the legislative aide wanted to hear about our personal experiences in the arts. It took me off guard, but I wasn’t lacking in stories either. In my next 2 meetings, I lead with a different story about how the arts transformed my life. This resonated more with them than any of my stats would ever do.

A few minutes after my last meeting., I took a moment to reflect (There was virtually no time to think running between buildings and offices). And my first thought:

'This was one of the most important things I have ever done.'

Nearly two weeks later, this sentiment is even more true than it was then. The morning during when I was writing this, the House voted on a spending bill that INCREASED the NEA’s budget to $152,849,000. That money will go to supporting arts education, programs, and research all over this great country.

That is the beauty of America. Despite all of the strife and discourse, Americans are able to campaign, discuss, and advocate for the issues they find important to them and their communities. And for the over 600 people who attended, that issue was the arts."

- Drew Halford, second year arts management student at The Ohio State University