I love yoga. It’s all the rage—even Nancy Hanks Lecturer Alec Baldwin is a fan. Yoga practice is a great fitness activity that has physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. A thirty minute workout comprised of sun salutation, downward facing dog, and accompanied by a little “om” action provides the energy and balance needed to chug through the day.
What about arts wellness? I propose this: advocacy is the new yoga.
I promise, I’m going somewhere with this. Just hear me out.
Every year in April, hundreds of arts advocates arrive in Washington, DC for Arts Advocacy Day.
The two-day summit covers advocacy training, break out sessions regarding current arts issues, the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and a day on Capitol Hill—meeting with legislators to discuss the state of the arts and future objectives.
It’s an empowering and inspiring experience. Even as a seasoned veteran, I discover new information, meet and discuss issues with colleagues from all over the country, and leave Washington knowing that somehow, in some way, I planted a seed by educating and encouraging my elected officials regarding the positive power of the arts and their support and continued funding benefits the country in countless ways.
But what happens when we leave our nation’s capital? It is all too easy to “fall off the wagon”: to put our Congressional Arts Handbook and other resources on a bookcase in the office, only to be revisited the following April.
Here’s where yoga comes in.
Advocacy must be part of our mission as arts administrators, patrons, board members, students, etc. It’s a natural instinct to share the glories, wonderment, and benefits of the arts, so why not incorporate this for 30 minutes a day?
Am I suggesting you go to Washington or your state house everyday for 30 minutes?
No, there are other effective methods of advocating: writing an e-mail or letter, making a phone call, or even making an appointment at a legislator’s district office. Advocate for the arts with local teachers, leaders, business people, and other organizations that could benefit from a future partnership with an arts program.
On the first day of my introductory arts management class, I share with my students the definition of an arts manager from David Conte and Stephen Langley’s Theatre Management:
“A person who is knowledgeable in the art with which he is concerned, an impresario, labor negotiator, diplomat, educator, publicity and public relations expert, politician, skilled businessman, a social sophisticate, a servant of the community, a tireless leader—becoming humble before authority—a teacher, a tyrant, and a continuing student of the arts.”
There is no mention of advocacy.
As the semester progresses we spend nearly four class sessions on arts policy and advocacy, even having my student arts managers participate in the advocacy process by writing to their legislators. On the last day of class, we return to this definition and evaluate it. Students quickly exclaim, “Dr. K—we have to be advocates. We can’t progress without it.” Truer words couldn’t be uttered.
My prescription for the health of our arts organizations: thirty minutes of advocacy a day. It makes a world of difference. And always make sure to stay hydrated.