#1 Who We Are Wednesdays

What does an Arts Council do anyway? Part 1: The Tree of Advocacy

Who We Are Wednesdays: What does an Arts Council do anyway?

Everyone thinks of something different when you say the arts, and that’s a good thing. Equity in, and access to the arts is an important part of the fabric that makes up your quality of life as an American. But, there are somethings about our society that need guidance to be fair, and often access to the arts is one of them. Just like other aspects of our world that people need access to, like housing or medical care, the arts needs people to fight for them so everyone has a chance to participate. That is one huge element of what we do as an arts council, and it’s called advocacy.

The Tree of Advocacy

Advocacy can mean a lot of things. For our ‘parent’ arts council organization, Americans for the Arts, it’s about constantly telling the story of why the arts should be valued at the federal level. They talk to politicians about it, asking them to secure or support funding for the arts, but they also spend time appealing to regualr people, so they understand that the arts are not a garauntee, and it’s up to all of us to speak up about their importance if we want to keep them around. This ensures that polticians hear about the importance of arts from the people they serve, not just the arts advocate, and that creates lasting motivation.
They also support state arts councils, who are doing that same advocacy work at their state level; ours is the California Arts Council (CAC). The CAC then supports us through advocacy for funding local arts councils like Arts Council Napa Valley (ACNV). They are also a conduit of information from the federal down to us, as well as our feedback about what is happening locally back up the chain. Why would someone at the federal or state level care about what we do here in Napa County? Well, local arts agencies are where all the magic happens. We distribute funding and have programs that directly impact on our local arts scene. Then we get to watch the arts community do what it does best – create! We also act as a reference and guide to governments and private businesses who want to form relationships with the non-linear arts world, but don’t know how. We meet with local officials to work on arts friendly policy initiatives. We convince people to hire local creative people. After all that, we take the feedback you give us and we learn by being here working alongside you, and tell the people above us who are decide where the larger sums of money will go. Not all communities have a local arts council, and just like not having an elected representative, it means that their community isn’t heard in these larger discussions. 
So just like a tree, the roots of the arts are made up of the people who create, and each local Arts Council supports the creators and the people who want to keep creators around in those communities. Those communities help the greater fight for arts flourish, and the more we nuture access to arts for everyone, the bigger and stronger the tree gets. Those federal level leaves gather all the sushine and turn it into elements that help sustain the roots, the stately trunk, and the tree as a whole, and the roots return the favor.The more visible and strong the tree is, the more it becomes something that demands attention.
Click here to learn how you can help grow the tree.