Democracy in Action: Voices heard and agendas set at NPAC

In June 2008, 4,000 participants attended the National Performing Arts Convention (NPAC), making it the largest conference of its kind to date in North America. Attendees engaged in a four-day AmericaSpeaks process in order to develop an action blueprint for the nation’s performing arts community. After identifying common challenges and goals during the three-day caucus sessions, the process concluded with a 21st Century Town Meeting.  Attendees who participated in the final Town Meeting voted electronically on actions that would advance the performing arts community in America.

With advocacy, arts education and diversity for the field and its communities as priorities, performing arts professionals can now implement plans that will move the arts community ever closer to its vision of a robust, sustainable and supported community that is relevant to the wider society.

Following are the results of the voting with respect to the national, local and individual/organizational levels.




  • Organize a national media campaign with celebrity spokespersons, catchy slogans (e.g., “Got Milk”), unified message and compelling stories (27%)

  • Create a Department of Culture/Cabinet-level position which is responsible for implementing a national arts policy (23%)

  • Lobby elected political officials for pro-arts policy and funding; demand arts policy platform from candidates (14%)


  • Create an arts coalition to get involved in local decision-making, take leadership positions and strengthen relationships with elected officials (21%)

  • Forge partnerships with other sectors to identify how the arts can serve community needs (21%)

  • Foster cross-disciplinary conversations to share data and best practices, develop common goals and create joint activities/ performances (14%)


  • Build relationships with non-arts groups, including governments, corporations, community development organizations, etc. (26%)

  • Create opportunities for active participation in the arts for all ages (including interactive websites, open rehearsals, etc.) (24%)

  • Expand relationships across the community to find and develop new leaders (e.g. through board development) and local champions for the arts (12%)

Arts Education


  • Devise an advocacy campaign to promote the inclusion of performing arts in core curricula (36%)

  • Enlist artists as full partners in all aspects of arts education through training and creating an AmeriCorps/WPA-type program (22%)

  • Lobby for education reform, including rescinding No Child Left Behind (20%)


  • Mobilize and collaborate with K-12 and higher education institutions to strengthen arts education and arts participation as core curriculum (23%)

  • Strengthen relationship with school boards and policy makers through lobbying, electing “arts friendly officials,” involvement in local politics (17%)

  • Integrate arts teaching in educators’ professional development and integrate teaching programs in artist organizations (16%)


  • Lead lifelong education programs that actively involve people in multi-generational groups.  “Make the arts part of a life long wellness plan.” (23%)

  • Directly engage teachers to integrate the arts into their teaching and create professional development programs to address their needs (19%)

  • Commit your entire organization to arts education in mission, budget, programs and collaborations (13%)



  • Charge national service organizations to create dialogue at convenings, create training programs, promote diverse art and artists, and partner with grassroots organizations who are already connected to diverse communities (43%)

  • Diversify boards, management and staff in all national arts organizations (26%)

  • Create a media campaign with artists from diverse communities, including celebrities to provide exposure to diverse art (15%)


  • Open an honest dialogue across community groups and sectors to share priorities and identify barriers to participation (31%)

  • Partner within the arts, as well as with community organizations, to build relationships (23%)

  • Expand beyond traditional venues to establish new points of access (17%)


  • Discover arts in your community offered by cultures other than your own and establish peer relationships (37%)

  • Set long-term goal and plan to have staff, board, programming, and audiences reflect the demographics of your community (32%)

  • Create an internship / entry-level staff program that attracts and recruits diverse staff (15%)

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