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Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Arts and Heritage Day in Olympia, Washington was intense!  I advocated so hard for the arts y'all.  Between calling out legislators to pull them off the floor to hear why the arts are important, the unanticipated marble stairs to climb, to attempting to get a firm commitment on support of the arts--I am exhausted.
The marble stairs...the pain...the out of breath-ness...*sigh*

The Art of Advocacy

24 hours before Arts and Heritage Day began, I sat in a board meeting for the Washington State Arts Commission.  I was feeling like my advocacy skills were a little rusty and ever so thankful for the mini training another board member provided. 

After attending an evening reception where I ran into some of my art pals from various organizations, I remember thinking about how nervous I was for the next day.  I didn't really know what to expect as it was my first time to our state capitol and in an official capacity as an ArtsWA Commissioner.   

There was so much information in my head that I was concerned about having a bout of word vomit.  It didn't happen though.  

It's like my brain marinated on the information and the importance of it all overnight.  By morning, the words just flowed.  

Hot apple cider powered me through the wealth of facts, figures
and law to go over in preparation to advocate.

I love how that works.  It reminds me of my criminal trial days and how things all magically came together during a passionately delivered closing argument.

What really got me through it all was realizing that this was so not about me and how well I could articulate a point.  The beauty of art is that it is rarely ever about just us.  Art is like oxygen and we all need it to live, I mean really live...not just scratch out a miserable existence but to thrive even.  

I kept an image in my head of my teens in my social justice art program to remind me that this was for them too.  Pulling those legislators into a quiet corner to be sure they heard all that art had to offer was my way of communicating the fact that black lives matter in the arts.  

The points and facts I shared were universal but the depth at which I spoke about it came from the core of my blackness and what it means to be black in a world that hates you for it and be embraced by the loving arms of art.  Whatever carefully crafted talking points I memorized moved to the background as my passion and belief for the power of arts took center stage. 

Silly zombies, babies are for cuddling...

What I will remember most about those two days in Olympia is that, not everyone holds art in such high regard.  Let me say that another way:

Some of the people whom we've entrusted to make our laws have a hard time finding the value in art. 
That is one of thee most scary realities I have had to face in my young tender years.  That fact should scare us all really.  Show me an individual who doesn't care about art and we will both be staring at the walking dead.  

If that doesn't scare you, then the thought of zombies passing laws should.  Can you even imagine??  Brains would be everywhere.  But that is basically the fate of art and life as we know it if we don't continue to advocate like hell.  Let these legislators know that art is life and the denial of such is to stop breathing.  

In the defense of art  

It was hard not to pull out my old prosecutor hat and put those legislators on trial and engage in a direct examination (or cross examination) to expose their level of support when it comes to the arts a la Law and Order style.  

Where were you on the day that the bill to gut art in public places was presented?  

Do you recognize Exhibit A?  Is this your signature on the bill approving yet another decrease in the budget for the arts?  

Isn't it true that for the past 7 years you have voted to decrease the arts budget by over 55%?  

Are you aware that your actions (or lack thereof) have left Washington State ranked as 47th in the nation at 15 cents per capita in terms of General Fund appropriation?

Even under oath, words would only offer a thin veil of assurance.  The proof is in the vote.  It would still be fun to watch them squirm! 


It mustn't come to all that.  I'd like to think that the space between where I am in my art life, versus someone else is who seems far away from the artsy core, is merely an art-filled conversation away.  We all must constantly have these conversations about the transformative properties of art.  When we do, more legislators will actually care about the arts and recognize its power to enhance the quality of life for all in various capacities.  That is after all, the point in enhance our lives.  Am I right?

How do you advocate for the arts?  Share in the comments.





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