Art, Activism, Advocacy

This is a video that I made about a year ago. I made it to accompany a dance – this video was gonna be projected. But I found that the video was much stronger than my dance, and that I was accompanying the video, not the other way around. So the video is now its own separate entity. Let me know what you think.

I’m involved with the DC Advocates for the Arts. We’re having a meeting that I think is gonna be really interesting on Wednesday December 17th from 6:30-8:00pm. A big thank you to the CUDC for hosting the meeting at the Source on 14th St.

In meetings leading up to this event, and in preparation for the series of events we’ll be running in the new year, the Steering Committee has had some interesting discussions about the difference between activism and advocacy.

We are the DC Advocates for the Arts. Our mission empowers us to increase awareness and support for local arts. As Advocates, our central program is lobbying the City Council. Local arts funding has a major impact on local arts. Not only is the money important, but in terms of germinating and supporting local art, local funding has a major impact on the focus of local art. Where local arts funding places emphasis, and priority, that portion of the arts community grows. The DC Advocates works to make sure that our local government sets appropriate priorities and funding levels.

While we are ‘advocates’, we do not consider ourselves ‘lobbyists’. Nor do we consider ourselves ‘activists’. I have been thinking about that.

We need an engaged and active arts community to make our (the DC Advocates for the Arts) voice heard. Basically, if we have no constituent support, why would the government representatives listen to us? So as an organization I feel like we need to work to encourage engagement from the arts community in local politics.

The meeting that we are having on the 17th is trying to work toward that.

According to DCist, in the next session of the City Council, there will be consideration of a Gay Marriage bill. I know a lot of us that think such a thing – especially in the face of Prop. 8 – would be a great step. In order to make our voices heard, we’re gonna need to learn how to advocate well. This meeting brings together several individuals with expertise in local politics.

Tom Birch serves as legislative counsel for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in Washington, D.C. His work focuses on the interests of artists and arts organizations, directing advocacy efforts, and advising state and local groups on advocacy and lobbying strategies. He served two terms in elected public office as Georgetown’s neighborhood commissioner.

Rick Rosendall was president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance for three years ending in January 1999, and is now its Vice President for political affairs. He is a columnist for the Boston gay newspaper Bay Windows and Washington’s Metro Weekly. He is a native Washingtonian.

Ben Young is the Chief of Staff for D.C. Councilmember David Catania. In this role, Young regularly interacts with advocates and lobbyists wishing to advance their agenda before the Districts legislature.

This is not a meeting about Gay Marriage, or promoting Gay Rights. At this meeting we will be looking at influencing local policy, with examples from arts funding and gay rights. There was some talk amongst the steering committee of whether or not this was taking us off track. Why have a meeting that deals with any subject other than the arts?

My sense is that artists have many interests, and since the DC Advocates need an engaged arts population to do our arts advocacy, it is in our interest to encourage all forms of advocacy. It increases the pool of engaged artists who might be a part of arts advocacy. That sounds a bit mercenary, but in my role with the DC Advocates for the Arts, that’s my line….

F showed me a video the other day that’s been making the rounds:

See more videos at Funny or Die

Please let your friends know about the meeting on the 17th. I know it’s the holidays, but we need to take the momentum we have from the national election and keep working for the things that matter to us.

Author: Robert Bettmann

Founder of Day Eight, and the DC Arts Writing Fellowship.