In case you aren’t aware, ARTS NC is a membership network for individuals and arts organizations across our state. Founded in 1974, ARTS NC believes every community should have access to public resources and opportunity to build healthy communities through the arts. Instrumental in the developing and advocating for the Grassroots Arts Program (per capita funding for the arts through the North Carolina Arts Council and local arts councils) the organization’s mission includes advocacy, networking, and services for members. We value the work ARTS NC’s does, as an independent voice for all of the arts throughout our state.
Although engaged in lobbying and advocacy throughout the year, ARTS NC also spearheads Arts Day – a two-day annual event in Raleigh. The first day is spent building your advocacy toolkit in preparation for the second day, talking with local Legislators. (This year, part of our advocacy training included being reminded many times NOT to talk to Legislators about other pressing issues in our state of concern to many of us including HB2 and gerrymandering to name a few.)
This year, as advocates we were focused around two main agenda items:
- Grassroots Arts Funding Expansion Request. We are requested an additional $3,650,000 which would be distributed to all 100 counties throughout NC, via Local Arts Councils, Arts Centers, and Schools. You can learn more about how this funding would impact NC here, but generally, there are 100 Locals Arts Councils in NC, one per county. Each currently receives a base of $6000 for arts funding, which is then supplemented by a population formula. The Grassroots Expansion Request dollars would allow the North Carolina Arts Council to increase this base distribution amount to $30,000 per Local Arts Council. In part, this means that the 34 rural all-volunteer Local Arts Councils in NC could hire a staff person, allowing these organizations to expand private resources, partner with tourism, enhance economic development, connect with schools, etc. More money = more accessibility to art.
- We also requested an increase of $1,500,000 for the NC Arts Council Grants Funding. This would provide $500,000 for a competitive grant program for grant allocation and $500,000 for touring funds for State Art Resources – 53 exemplary arts organizations throughout the state. These funds would supplement current funding and help major organizations deal with rapidly growing cities, while also helping these exemplary institutions share high quality arts experiences with rural areas. There are 10 organizations in Charlotte considered State Arts Resources including the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, the Mint Museum, the Harvey B. Gantt Center, and more. See all of the State Arts Resources here.
- Additionally, $500,000 of this request would be used for Veterans Arts Programs, a new granting program of the NC Arts Council, and SmART, a program focused on downtown revitalization and sustainable economic development primarily in rural cities and towns.
- We also pushed for HB97, a bill that has been floating around for a few years now. This bill has passed the House, but gets kicked back in the Senate. It’s really quite simple: it would require that students between grades 6 and 12 take ONE ARTS CREDIT to graduate. One. Yes, just one.
Worst part of Arts Day? Occasionally, feeling you are talking to a brick wall…a legislator who doesn’t seem to understand the value of arts. But mostly, people were nice and open. They mostly agreed the arts have value and largely they understood the wider educational and economic impact, especially Scott Stone, who has witnessed growth and development of his daughters through their love of theatre. Sometimes, legislators understood…but demonstrated resistance simply based on budget issues.
Weirdest comment: One legislator exclaimed he had “not been to the Mint Museum in decades!” — not exactly something I personally would be proud of, but hey, isn’t that an argument IN FAVOR of State Art Resources and Grassroots Funds Expansion? With those additional funds, the Mint Museum, as a State Art Resources, one of 53 exemplary organizations, could make their high-quality programming even more accessible, taking the art directly to him, on the outskirts of our county. (Mint Museum, if you want to reach out specifically to this person, I’m happy to share his name and contact info privately).
Best part of Arts Day? Learning, connecting with other like-minded people, and becoming a more confident advocate for the arts. Oh, and meeting Jeff Jackson. He was our last appointment of the day (I technically hijacked some other folks’ meeting) because I needed to leave on a high note, thanking someone who already works tirelessly on many of the issues important to us Charlotteans, from arts to…you know, the stuff we were told we weren’t allowed to mention during our legislative appointments.