2009 TCG National Conference - Pre-Conference
The Shakespeare Theatre Company hosts the TCG Pre-Conference at their newly opened Sidney Harman Hall (610 F Street NW in Washington, DC). Our pre-conference offerings this year include opportunities to strengthen your own voice, make a substantial difference in the field, and become a crucial part of international conversations and artistic exchange.
So let your voice be heard! Make advocacy an important part of your leadership portfolio, and join your colleagues in Washington, DC on June 3 for training and personalized visits to your Members of Congress. Get up to speed on the current status of arts appropriations and regulatory issues that affect the performing arts, and immediately put that training to work on the Hill. No one is going to stand up for theatre but ourselves – and the time to take that stand is now. We have an opportunity to influence a receptive, new administration and Congress – and we’ve set a goal of 200 representatives of theatres across the country storming the Hill on June 3. Join us!
TCG will be working to secure afternoon Hill appointments for registrants with your Members of Congress. We can only secure appointments because we are bringing constituents – that’s you! We encourage registration by May 11th to give us time to try and lock in these meetings. Some of the appointments will be with Members of Congress, and others will be with their staff. Meeting with Hill staff is just as important as meeting with your Member of Congress and these meetings are often crucial to our advocacy efforts.
Do some light prep work and showcase your theatre in the best light. Take a couple of minutes to research the answers to the following questions:
1) Has your organization received NEA grants in the last 2 years? If so, please be able to describe what the funds were used for.
2) If you don't receive NEA funding, but do receive money from your state arts council, we will talk about how 40% of NEA funds go directly to the states and how important this funding is.
3) If your organization has received any other federal funding, it would be helpful to know how much, and from what agency (Dept of Education, for example) and again, what the funds were used for.
4) It would be helpful for you to be able to talk about the size of your annual audiences, and the numbers of students served by your education programs.
5) Please also be able to tell the number of employees at your organization.
6) If you bring in artists from abroad and have encountered any difficulties with obtaining visas for them in time for performances, that would be important to be able to talk about as well.
Please bring photo ID, and wear comfortable walking shoes. Personal business cards can also be a helpful tool, and you are welcome to bring a camera because there are sometimes photo opportunities when meeting with your Member of Congress.
TCG will have Advocacy packets for the congressional offices and for you. If you have any materials you’d like to bring from your theatre, please feel free to do so. Within the TCG packets will be issue briefs with talking points about each of the most important legislative issues we will be covering in the meetings.
Please do not bring any food or flowers as gifts to Members of Congress - because of heightened security, they will not let you bring these items into the Capitol or Legislative Office buildings.
The NEA is a solid investment in the economic growth of communities, as well as in the educational success of children and youth, through its commitment to reach underserved populations and ensure that all Americans have access to the arts. In the last FY09 budget, the NEA saw a $10 million boost to $155 million which moves the agency closer to a restoration of its 1992 funding level of $176 million. Our request would allow it to further regain the funding lost to inflation since expanding its grants to arts organizations.
We urge Congress to appropriate $53 million for the Arts in Education programs in the FY 2010 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. We also call for the U.S. Department of Education to produce timely and comprehensive reports on the status of all arts education disciplines in America’s public schools, when implementing future Fast Response Statistical Surveys and National Assessment of Educational Progress assessments. The Arts in Education programs support newly emerging models that improve arts learning in high-poverty schools. Congress has a record of supporting the Arts in Education programs, and has funded the Arts in Education programs each year, currently providing $38.16 million in the FY09 budget.
There is a pressing need for more federal policy beyond simply declaring the arts as a core academic subject. In order for visual arts, music, theater and dance education to be an essential subject of learning, students, educators and the public need Congress to improve national data collection and research in arts education, make a substantial investment in professional development opportunities for arts educators, and require states to issue annual reports on the status condition of all arts and other core academic subjects.
Secondly, arts education needs to be deployed as an economic development strategy. According to a 2007 Conference Board report, there is overwhelming support from school superintendents (98 percent) and corporate leaders (96 percent) that creativity is of increasing importance to the U.S workforce. Further, a Lake Research poll of 1,000 likely voters revealed that 83 percent of voters believe that a greater emphasis on the arts, along with math, science and technology would better prepare students for the demands of the 21st century.
Congress must address the law’s unintended consequences, which have diminished the presence of arts education in our schools. We urge Congress to retain the arts in the definition of core academic subjects of learning, reauthorize the Arts in Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education, improve national data collection and research in arts education and require states to annually report on student access to all core academic subjects.
Tax Issues and Charitable Giving:
We urge Members of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 1250 sponsored by Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-SD) and Wally Herger (R-CA) to make permanent the “IRA Rollover” provision of the Pension Protection Act. The IRA Rollover provision, which was recently extended to December 2009, permits donors age 70.5 and older to make tax-free charitable gifts directly from their IRAs to charities, up to an annual ceiling of $100,000. Before the IRA Rollover provision was enacted as part of the Pension Reform Act of 2006, individuals who wished to make charitable gifts from their retirement accounts had to withdraw funds and treat them as taxable income, reducing the amount available for donation to charity. Nonprofit arts organizations improve the quality of life by contributing to lifelong learning, preserving our cultural heritage, and fostering the creative expression that tells the story of our personal and collective histories.
We urge Members of Congress to co-sponsor S. 405, the “Artist-Museum Partnership Act,” offered by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT), or H.R. 1126 offered in the House by Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Todd Platts (R-PA). Most museums, libraries, educational institutions, and archives lack funds to acquire works of art, relying instead on donations. Unfortunately, however, creators cannot take a tax deduction for the fair-market value of works that they donate and are instead limited to a deduction for the cost of materials. Without incentive to give their works to nonprofit institutions, creators generally sell their works to private collectors, and the public loses. This bipartisan legislation would simply allow artists to take a fair-market value deduction for works given to and retained by nonprofit institutions.
Cultural Exchange and Visa:
We urge Congress to increase funding by $10 million for the Cultural Programs Division of the State Department’s Office of Citizen Exchanges in the FY 2010 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill. This increase should be designated for the Professional Exchanges and Cultural Grant Program and the Performing Arts Initiative. Direct the State Department to: 1) make information on projects funded through these programs readily available to the public; 2) encourage broad participation in its grant program in support of artistic and cultural exchanges with an emphasis on simplifying the application process; and 3) recruit applicants widely to represent best the opportunities available for freedom of thought and expression in a democratic society. Direct the State Department to increase operational capacity within the Cultural Programs Division to strengthen its ability to process and oversee grants and programs.
The Cultural Programs Division is the primary Department of State element that focuses on cultural diplomacy. Its programs support U.S. foreign policy objectives by promoting friendly relations with other countries, initiating and maintaining critical dialogues that develop and spread mutual understanding between nations. The Professional Exchanges and Cultural Grant Program provides grants to U.S. nonprofit organizations to carry out exchange programs in the arts, arts management, and arts education. The Performing Arts Initiative provides financial support to U.S. Embassies for presentations of American performing art and artists.
We urge Congress to enact legislation that will require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reduce the total processing time for O and P petitions filed by, or on behalf of, nonprofit arts-related organizations to a maximum of 45 days. The O category is used by individual foreign artists, and the P category is used by groups of foreign artists, reciprocal exchange programs, and culturally unique artists. Current USCIS practice compounds the growing risk that foreign guest artists will be unable to enter the United States in time for their engagements, causing financial burdens on nonprofit arts organizations and potentially denying the American public the opportunity to experience international artistry due to delays and cancellations.
Delays by USCIS are making it increasingly difficult for international artists to appear in the United States. Nonprofit arts organizations confront long waits and uncertainty in gaining approval for visa petitions for foreign guest artists. These delays began in June 2001 (prior to September 11), when USCIS adopted a Premium Processing Service, guaranteeing processing within 15 calendar days at an unaffordable cost for most nonprofit arts organizations—$1,000 per petition.
Over the past 35 years, wireless audio devices used by the performing arts, including microphones, intercoms, in-ear monitors, certain walkie talkies, and or cueing/IFB systems, have operated on radio frequencies between the television broadcast channels, on the so-called "white spaces". Following the transition from analog to digital TV, television broadcasts will occupy less space within the TV band. Due to this transition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conducted proceedings to re-examine shared use of the re-allocated broadcast spectrum. This re-examination included consideration by the FCC to either auction off the white spaces to the highest bidder or to open the white spaces to millions of new unlicensed electronic devices such as PDAs, cordless phones, and wireless laptops. Indeed, the new electronic devices were approved by the FCC in November, 2008.
The performing arts community recognizes the benefits of greater access to the internet and encourages innovations that expand connectivity for underserved populations. At the same time, there is concern that shared use of the broadcast spectrum may open the door to increased radio interference to professional wireless microphone and audio systems, adversely affecting the ability of these systems to provide the high-quality performances that audiences have come to expect. Wireless microphones enable unrestricted movement and sophisticated sound for performers and are also heavily by stagehands to communicate and execute complex technical activity. Find out what TCG is doing to urge the FCC to make sure that incumbent users’ wireless microphone technology do not suffer interference. Learn how to educate your Members of Congress about this critical issue.
Like other sectors of the U.S. economy, arts organizations have been hit hard by the current recession. They have seen their support drop from corporations, foundations, municipalities, and state government. People in the arts sector are losing their jobs just like those in other fields. Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion in economic activity every year, support 5.7 million jobs, and return nearly $30 billion in government revenue every year—proving that the arts are an economic driver in their communities that support jobs and generate government revenue. Every $1 billion in spending by these organizations—and their audiences—results in almost 70,000 fulltime-equivalent jobs.
Public funding for the arts is a timely investment for states and municipalities facing tough economic conditions. In a report released in January 2009, the National Governors Association stated, "Arts and culture are important to state economies. Arts and culture-related industries, also known as ‘creative industries,’ provide direct economic benefits to states and communities: They create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases."
The recent $50 million appropriation through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act provided an infusion of funds that will help sustain organizations in the arts sector, their staffs, artists, and the services they provide. But it is not enough. The nonprofit arts community asks that as Congress considers legislation investing in the country’s workforce and economy that the creative industries are recognized as members of the business community and supported through specific provisions. Be prepared to tell your elected officials that Arts=Jobs.
Summaries provided by Americans for the Arts.
For detailed Legislative Issue Briefs, please visit TCG's Legislative Issues webpage.