Why every artist should know who all their elected officials are.
As a working artist, as an activist, and also as the executive director for the Artists Foundation, I learned that elected officials are very interested in knowing those they represent. After all they are public servants and work for you and I. I have found most of the elected officials and those who work for them to be quite nice, approachable, and often very helpful (via helping find contacts, collaborators, etc). For many of my own art projects, I have worked with both my own elected officials on a city and state level, as well as those elected officials in the cities and towns I am working/showing in. These interactions have been mutually beneficial and fun for both myself and the elected officials. I have also put my elected officials and their staff on my art mailing list-often they can’t come to a reception, but sometimes they can and do. They all are, however, grateful to get the invites. Remember many of the calls they get and the correspondence they receive isn’t so “friendly”, so an invite from a constituent is quite nice to receive. I have built some nice relationships and when I contact their offices on a matter that concerns me, I find that they do indeed listen. I highly recommend that every artist read the book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. It will inspire you to action.
One of the biggest things the I have heard as the AF’s Executive Director from legislators, "We never see or hear from artists- we only hear from the heads of arts organizations. We would like to hear from artists." Both myself and AF Board member Gail Burton recently testified in front of the state joint committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. The elected officials were engaged with what we said and it was clear that those who say they speak for the working artists have not spoken to our needs. This was evident when I mentioned that the creative economy is based on the artists’ unpaid or underpaid labor and that most artists do not get paid to show/perform our work in any venue- (museum/nonprofit space). The elected officials had no idea of this important fact. My full testimony is on the AF’s web site.
Artists need to be visible in the public policy debates - especially those that directly impact our art making and livelihoods. To help empower artists to become more involved with their elected officials, the AF has just launched it’s Become a Citizen Artist Campaign- this column is part of that effort. It is a statewide campaign to empower artists to become more involved with their elected officials, and with public policy, legislative, and community issues that directly impact their livelihoods.
Goals: To have artists sign up for the AF free list serve, to have artists vote, to have them become more involved with their elected officials on all levels of government, and to have them become involved with the AF's Creative Alliance (CA) on line project and the issues the CA is currently working on as outlined on the AF’s web site.
Specific Goals: 1) Get artists to vote and to register to vote if they are an US Citizen.
2) Empower artists to know their elected officials on city/town, state, and national levels. Help artists to find out who represents them via the AF web site. Encourage artists to introduce themselves to their elected officials. An artist should let their elected officials know that they are an artist who lives in their district, that they vote and that they will be in touch with them on issues that are important to them and their lively hoods. This campaign will encourage artists to add their elected officials to their art mailing list and to personally invite their elected officials and their staffs to their art events.
Getting Involved: what you can do now
If you are a US Citizen make sure you are registered to vote. To register to vote see www.DeclareYourself.com/
Get to know your elected officials on city/town, state, and national levels. These folks work for you. First you need to find out who represents you. Then you need to introduce yourself to them. Let them know that you are an artist who lives in their district, that you vote and that you will be in touch with them on issues that are important to you and your lively hood. Also put them on your mailing list. Personally invite them and their staff to your events.
Artists need to be visible in the public policy debates - especially those that directly impact our art making and livelihoods.
How to find out who your elected official are:
Vote - Smart.org (national and state legislators)
Info on Senators and Representatives by City and Town (Massachusetts)
NEXT-an interview with a model Massachusetts citizen artist