Back in January, while riding the subway, Philadelphia artist Amy Scheidegger overheard a conversation between two teenagers about the worthlessness of a degree in the arts. But instead of just stewing, Scheidegger sprang into action to create the Artistic Rebuttal Book Project—a collection of visually rendered statements about the importance of the arts, submitted by artists and advocates from all over the country.
Rebuttals run the gamut, expressing what we can quantify about the power of the arts (economic and social impacts) and what we can’t (“The music that gives you chills? An artist did that”). Viewed as a whole, the project is moving, funny, and a work of art in itself.
As of now, Scheidegger has 229 people confirmed to contribute from 53 American and Canadian cities; she plans to present an abridged version of the book to her representatives at National Arts Advocacy day in April and have the finished product find a home in galleries, arts councils, tourist departments and libraries across the country. She is also currently working with art and creative writing teachers and their students in several states to create a children’s edition of the Artistic Rebuttal Book Project.
This project really spoke to me as a fantastic example of grassroots arts advocacy. After all, who among us hasn’t overheard naïve or misguided statements about the value of the arts? (Indeed, a nation of arts advocates have been feeling a bit that way lately, with proposed cuts to the NEA and our state art agencies a looming on the horizon.) But it’s not easy to respond articulately to such comments in the moment. The Artistic Rebuttal Project responds positively to a negative statement, channeling this frustration that we have all felt through a collective voice. Placing all of the rebuttals together also strengthens the impact of each statement that effectively conveys the value and power of the arts.
Scheidegger is still accepting submissions for Artistic Rebuttals—guidelines are available at artisticrebuttal.tumblr.com/callforentries.
With arts budgets being slashed all over the country, it’s as important now as ever to be a strong arts advocate. Are there any inventive grassroots advocacy efforts in your area?