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News from Americans for the Arts Action Fund

Big Changes Underway in the U.S. Senate
Characterized by some strategists as a “wave,” the 2014 election brought Republican leadership to the U.S. Senate for the first time in eight years. No Republicans up for election lost their race. The party also picked up a net gain of nine seats. Overall, the 114th Congress welcomed 13 new senators. Republicans now have more seats on every Senate committee, including holding the chairman positions.

When Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) retired after
30 years of service, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) became the new chair of the committee with jurisdiction over education policy with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) as ranking member. On the funding side, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) now chairs the Interior Appropriations subcommittee that makes funding decisions affecting the National Endowment for the Arts with pro-arts Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) as ranking member. Current Cultural Caucus Co-Chairmen, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), continue their joint leadership of the Caucus, with work to increase membership after three members’ election defeats and another three retirements.

The Senate has also adjusted work schedules to accommodate longer work weeks and more time in Washington. We’ve already seen more legislative action take place as a result, including reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Encourage Creativity: Teach the Arts Tool Kits
Arts education is largely a local issue-nearly 90 percent of funding comes from city and state governments and policies. We work hard to advance support for arts education at all levels of government; but the real work happens on the ground, in your communities, by people like you.

To support local leaders in their advocacy efforts for arts education, we have produced a new suite of tools to help you build, craft, and present effective messages to educational leaders in order to affect change in local communities. The ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY tool kit is designed to complement the Arts Education Navigator e-book series, and includes advocate tools to learn strategies for making change, compelling videos to use in advocacy presentations, and quizzes to learn the robust facts & figures to present.

Go ahead now. Speak up in support of arts education to your local or state school board, principal or state superintendent., Be sure to check out to get the tools and resources needed to be the best advocate possible.

Message from the President

Thank you to all our grassroots Arts Action Fund advocates who went out on November 4 and voted for pro-arts candidates and ballot measures. Less than 24 hours after polls closed, we released our Post-Election Impact on the Arts update, explaining how races on the national, state, and local levels would impact the arts in 2015. After releasing this report online and to our members, Executive Director of the Arts Action Fund Nina Ozlu Tunceli and myself immediately travelled from coast to coast to explain to our stakeholders, in person, what the midterm elections meant for the arts. For example, Nina flew down to Atlanta to brief dozens of local arts leaders on the national, state, and local impact of the elections on the arts. Then the following week, we both went to Seattle to participate in several local meetings. I want to give a special shout out to Seattle arts leader Mari Horita for helping to personally raise $5,000 from Seattle arts patrons to support the Arts Action Fund PAC.

We wrapped up the year with our national Post-Election Impact on the Arts webinar, which you can access at


No sooner than the 2014 ballot boxes were packed away, the 2016 presidential election began in earnest. Don’t believe us? The so-called “invisible primary” is well underway, with millions of dollars being raised by “Ready For…” Super PACS, and cable news pundits already chattering about who will run, how they’ll fare, and if they can possibly beat the presumptive Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton, or early GOP front runner Jeb Bush. Because 2016 is an open seat presidential election, the pressure will be high on both sides to choose an “electable” candidate who can win the White House.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans won’t be resting on their 2014 laurels too long, as the 2016 map features several Republican senators up for re-election in states that President Obama carried twice, such as Mark Kirk (R-IL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Ron Johnson (R-WI). Even the House of Representatives, where Republicans now boast their largest majority since the Hoover administration, will have to campaign for re-election during a presidential year, when Democratic turnout is famously higher. The Arts Action Fund has wasted no time in preparing for 2016. We will be on the ground in summer/fall of 2015 in early primary and Caucus states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida, ready to secure Art Platform Statements from presidential candidates from both parties. We will also release our 2016 Congressional Arts Report Card, and distribute surveys to new congressional candidates.

In the summer of 2016, the Arts Action Fund will be at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions to hold arts policy panels, ensuring that the voices of arts advocates are heard at the highest levels of American politics.

Year-End Arts Action & New Congress Taking Seat
The 113th Congress adjourned with passage of some important arts-related bills, including final Fiscal Year 2015 funding and a brief extension of the IRA Charitable Rollover tax policy. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will each receive level funding of $146 million. The Office of Museum Services will remain at $30 million and the Arts in Education program within the U.S. Department of Education will also stay at $25 million, despite threats of being zeroed-out.

Congress also passed a patch to allow last-minute, tax-free charitable contributions from IRA accounts for the month of December. As the new Congress started this January, work on reauthorizing the expired Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has taken center stage, which could greatly impact arts education. The first Senate hearing occurred on January 21.

Also in the new Congress is new arts leadership in the House, including pro-arts member Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) becoming Ranking Member of the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, which makes funding decisions affecting the NEA.

The Arts Action Fund monitors arts policy at the federal level and helps bring citizens’ voices to the table when important arts issues are debated. For detailed legislative updates, please visit

Major Shifts in State and Local Leadership
Last year was a game-changing year: 46 states elected 6,057 (82 percent) of the country’s 7,383 state legislative seats. At the end of the night, Republicans picked up an additional 315 state legislative seats and now control approximately 4,100 seats, the highest since 1920. Republicans now control 68 out of the nation’s 98 legislative chambers.

While the vast majority of people, regardless of their state, said it was time to purge career politicians, voting patterns did not follow. Ninety-six percent of state incumbents standing for re-election won, which is an incredibly high number. In Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, and South Carolina, 100 percent of incumbents were re-elected. West Virginia voters were the closest to electing an entirely new state legislature, with only a 79 percent incumbent re-election rate. Seventy-two percent (36 out of 50) of the nation’s governors were up for election with five new governors being elected in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

The Arts Action Fund is pleased that several pro-arts governors were re-elected, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D). The Arts Action Fund tracked 29 state and local ballot measures, and some saw wonderful results. In Rhode Island, Ballot Question 5 passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. It authorizes $35 million in bonds to be spent on renovating cultural facilities, and grant funds for the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.

On the local front, Utah saw six localities (including Salt Lake City) pass local sales tax increases of 0.1 percent to fund zoos, arts, parks, and other recreation facilities.

We’d like to extend a special thank you to all of the donors who contributed $200 or more to our Political Action Committee in the 2013-14 election cycle. The midterm election illustrated how important it is to educate all our elected leaders about the transformative impact of the arts and arts education. A special thank you to our top donors of 2014-you made it all possible.

Judi Beck
Phoebe Bender
Charles Block
Dianne Brace
Roger Brooks
Robert Bush, Jr.
Miles Coon
Jessica Cusick
Susan Edelheit
Ken Fergeson
Marian A. Godfrey
Betty Jean Green
Floyd Green
Hans Gruenert
Jean Hendrickson
Peter Horvitz
Ms. Ruth Ann Knapp
Margot H. Knight
Carlo Lamagna
Fred Lazarus
William Lehr Jr.
Sammy Little
Abel Lopez
Robert L Lynch
Deborah Margol
Karen McKinnon
Donald Munro
William Neukom
Janelle Plattenberger
Carol Powell
Sydney Roberts-
Sharon Schachter
Jay Seller
Steven Spiess
Michael Spring
Nancy Stephens
Ann Stack
Nina Ozlu Tunceli
Marian Warden
Dianne Vapnek

Education Bill Moves Out of Senate Committee

The bill will now be considered by the full Senate

2015 Arts Action Fund Policies Approved!

Our membership has approved our platform for 2015!

Sign the National Petition to Keep the Arts Alive in Education Reform

Help us protect the arts in education!

Congressional Hearing About NEA Funding

Friends of the Arts Action Fund testify for a $155 million allocation for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Net Neutrality and the Arts

Dear Arts Advocate:We want to keep you updated on last week’s widely anticipated net neutrality ruling at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and what it means for artists and arts organizations.

What is “net neutrality?”

It’s the idea that your Internet service provider (ISP), like Verizon or Comcast, doesn’t discriminate when it comes to Internet traffic-meaning throttling or blocking legal content that you want to access or share. A company also can’t pay your ISP to speed up service for certain sites.

A lot is at stake. At the heart of the issue is how to ensure an open Internet that preserves everyone’s ability to communicate freely online to learn, engage, express themselves, innovate, and be entrepreneurial. The open architecture of the Internet has created unprecedented opportunities for artists, cultural organizations, and entrepreneurs.

How did we get here?

As you know, we have been tracking developments. In July, we encouraged arts advocates to take action and submit a comment to the FCC. We took our own advice and were one of the more than 4 million Americans who submitted comments to the FCC as they were considering what to do in light of the lawsuit that threw out the previous net neutrality rule. The topic was prominent during some of our arts & technology national policy roundtables and emerged as a clear grassroots movement – boosted further by John Oliver’s amusing coverage of the topic.

For several years, net neutrality concerns have been a part of our annual message to Congress, as part of Arts Advocacy Day. Moreover, in the days right before last week’s FCC ruling, more than 85 artists, organized by the Future of Music Coalition, weighed in showing support for the FCC Chairman’s anticipated plan, including members of R.E.M., Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, and OK Go. Artists also united together before there even was an official public comment period, including Eddie Vedder, Michael Stipe, Neko Case, Erin McKeown, Fugazi, Mark Ruffalo and Evangeline Lilly, who wrote to support protecting the open Internet as a vehicle for free expression and  collaboration.

Last week’s ruling

In a widely anticipated ruling on February 26, the FCC ruled – in a split (3-2) vote and along party lines – to reclassify broadband as a utility, which would give the commission more regulatory power over Internet providers. It would be regulated like your water or electricity. Here is an FCC fact sheet.

What happens now?

As mentioned, the FCC vote was divisive and has resulted in some members of Congress looking for a legislative solution. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Greg Walden (R-OR) are working on their own alternative plan for net-neutrality policy. Members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee also have penned sharp opposition to the FCC rule. Legal action is expected. Plus, there are different opinions on whether new state and local fees might come to your service bills.

On Arts Advocacy Day – March 24th, Americans for the Arts, along with 85 national cosponsors and 400+ arts advocates will share their message of support for net neutrality with members of Congress. Throughout the year, we will continue tracking the legislative response to this net neutrality ruling, and make sure you know when your voice needs to be heard so that artists and creative entrepreneurs can continue to reach audiences, build businesses, and share their work.

Thank you for your support of the arts.

Sign the National Petition to Keep the Arts Alive in Education Reform

The House will begin today on a series of education reform amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.

The Hill: ‘An investment in the arts is an investment in economic growth’

An argument for funding the arts and arts education from Arts Action Fund member, Camellia Termini.

Countdown to Arts Advocacy Day, Part 2

Featuring Arts Advocacy Days in Maryland and Kentucky.

Four Lessons about Partnership from Other Social Causes

What can we learn from advocates outside of the arts?