If we remain silent on the role that the arts play in our lives, the lives of our families, friends and colleagues, the economic impact of the arts on our community, state, and nation, the education of our children, and the future of our society, then we allow others to define the arts and minimize their value and impact.
For more than 20 years I have been involved in learning the language and techniques of advocacy. For me, it turns out to be a rather simple task. Speak often about the role of the arts in your life. Speak from your heart. Be persistent, but not shrill. Speak the truth, as you know it. Don't just sing for the choir of the existing arts community (metaphorically, of course. I do want you to sing in your choirs!), but sing your arts praises to every possible audience.
Communicate with the business community on the economic impact of the arts, as that is the language understood in their world.
Communicate to the education administrators and boards how the arts keep our young people, who might otherwise disengage from school, actively learning and present each day as they get up in the morning to participate in choir, theatre, dance, orchestra or visual arts classes.
To the politicians, remind them as often as possible, with the line I learned years ago from arts advocates with whom I worked in Ohio; "I love the arts and I VOTE." A voter is a powerful advocate. Send emails, write letters, visit your government officials, do things that will help them become partners and advocates themselves. Invite influential friends and their associates to serve on Boards of arts organizations that you support. INVITE influential community, business and political leaders to your performances and galleries.
Serve on the Boards of arts and non-arts organizations in your community. Establish relationships and partnerships beyond the local (regional, national) arts community.
Donate! Money, or time or skills. When you ask others to support your cause, your persuasive merit in the discussion is increased when you can define your commitment to the organization or cause in a measurable way.
While some arts colleagues will strongly disagree with me, I believe that the arts community is not "owed" anything - not time, money, or even respect. Insisting to an audience, whether of politicians or businesspersons, that they "owe" the arts because... (Fill in your reason), is the fastest way to drive them from the arts. Make your case in a positive manner. Surprise your "audience" with something interesting of which they were not previously aware. Bring them along on your journey in the arts. If you approach your advocacy with the intent of speaking truth in an inviting way, you will "earn" for the arts the resources and support we need.
Given the transition nationally over the last 30 years, from a manufacturing based economy to a "creative" and service based economy, it is imperative and not superfluous to our nation's fiscal health, that we invest in, and nurture, the creative communities.