Kevin Spacey

Just a few short weeks ago, actors Alec Baldwin, Kerry Washington, Kevin Spacey, and Hill Harper joined more than 550 arts advocates representing 40 states from across the country on Capitol Hill for National Arts Advocacy Day 2011.

This year’s event took place at a critical time when legislators were battling over program cuts to reduce the deficit.

The day began with the Congressional Arts Kickoff where several members of Congress spoke to advocates about the importance of arts funding.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), who chairs the subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Smithsonian, said that while some in Congress believe that government should not support the arts, “I respectfully disagree.”  

For the fifth year, Americans for the Arts assembled a panel of witnesses to testify before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee during Arts Advocacy Day, but  hearings for that week were canceled at the last minute due to the ongoing budget negotiations.

That didn’t stop our impressive list of witnesses, though, as each of them gave their remarks before the gathered arts advocates and media at our Kick Off event.

In his remarks, Alec Baldwin said he believes that those making cuts to the arts are speaking from an “old, very tired script” where they pretend not to remember the importance of the arts to children, seniors, our communities, and “as seed money for business.”

As part of the two-day event, on the night before Arts Advocacy Day, Academy Award®-winning actor and Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre Kevin Spacey delivered the 24th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy.

Presented by Americans for the Arts in partnership with Ovation television, Kevin Spacey delivered his remarks before an audience of more than 1,500 at the Kennedy Center.

In his speech, Spacey focused on the question “Does government support for the arts matter?”

He recounted growing up in South Orange, NJ, and spoke of how as a child, a theater workshop with actor Jack Lemmon helped him to find his voice and change his life.

Without public support for the arts, Spacey argued that we are focusing on the bricks and mortar and “ignoring the heart and soul of who we are as a country.”

“We must do everything we can to ensure that our cultural heritage and our cultural future is protected,” said Spacey. “We must shout louder to make sure those in positions of power and influence realize their value to our economy as well as to our collective soul—for we abandon the arts at our own peril.”

Thanks to all the advocates for your support and participation.

Advocates that couldn’t join us in Washington, DC, sent more than 13,500 messages in support of increased funding to Congress through our E-Advocacy Center that day.

Together we brought a unified message to Capitol Hill and let the Members of Congress know that the arts are an economic engine that are essential to our communities.

Before Arts Advocacy Day, the NEA was facing a cut of over $43 million proposed in the U.S. House for FY 2011.

Thanks to the advocacy work of the arts community, the final FY 2011 budget number is $155 million, which reflect a more sensible and proportionate funding cut of 7.5 percent to the National Endowments for the Arts.

Also, $25 million was restored to the Arts in Education account at the Department of Education, which had been zeroed-out in a previous Continuing Resolution.

As you can tell, advocacy makes an impact!

For more information, photos, and video from Arts Advocacy Day and the Nancy Hanks Lecture, please visit AmericansForTheArts.org/AAD.

*Arts Watch is the free bi-weekly cultural policy publication of Americans for the Arts, covering news in a variety of categories. Subscribe to Arts Watch.

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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.