Among the most recent actions was Arts Advocacy Afternoon at the Georgia State Capitol held January 25 by the Georgia Assembly of Community Arts. The event allowed artists and arts supporters to gather, train and speak with local legislators. Among the afternoon’s attendees was local artist, and Hudgens Prize winner, Gyun Hur.
We contacted Hur and asked her to recount her experience at Arts Advocacy Afternoon, including what she learned and whether or not she considered it effective.
What was your general experience with Arts Advocacy Afternoon?
Attending the Arts Advocacy at the Capitol was a wonderful experience. I actually got to understand our current state with the budget for the arts in the state of Georgia. I wasn't aware how moving the Georgia Council for the Arts to the Georgia Department of Economic Development (instead of Tourism department) would make Georgia eligible for the national funding (National Endowments for the Arts). We're ranked 49th in funding arts, and that was shocking considering how big of the city of Atlanta is becoming.
Through participating this event, I also realized that a small participation such as attending a Lobby Day and speaking with a legislator can actually make a difference. The legislators are the ones who can make decisions in law-making and budgeting, and it would be so important for us to take initiative in getting to know our legislators and voice out our need in support for the arts. If the lawmakers can see how the arts industry can positively impact Georgia’s economy, we'll be able to be funded and supported better!
What were your expectations going into Arts Advocacy Day at the Capitol?
It was my first time participating Lobby Day, therefore, I did not know what to expect. I was hoping that it would be calmer and more organized than an emergency march that was held last year. I knew that this very specific notion of lobbying would have to have strategies and I didn't have any experience. No expectations—I just went.
How would you characterize the turnout? Roughly how many people would you estimate were in attendance?
It was a great turn out. When I hurried into the church where the morning training was held, I was surprised to see a room filled with arts advocates. I believe there were about 175 people attended the Lobby day. There was a great energy amongst people. It was eye-opening for me to also meet a great number of arts leaders and advocates from outside of metro-Atlanta. Arts industry and mechanism are as relevant and much needed in other sectors of Georgia. I met an arts advocate from Athens who leads a non-profit arts organization working with youth.
Did you attend the morning training session by GACAA? If so, do you think it helped attendees better understand the legislative/promotional/lobbying process?
Yes, I attended the morning training session by GACAA. If it wasn't for the training session, I would have been lost. After a few speakers who emphasized arts industry's positive impact on Georgia's economy, they divided groups to, first, talk about effective strategies used for lobbying (from those who have been this before), and second, to gather with the same district people and go up to the Capitol together. It was unclear how to go about meeting the legislators though. I did not know about setting up an appointment to meet with a legislator—I should have signed up a meeting time, so that the communication with legislators could be more effective and direct. They gave us a sheet of paper to hand out to legislators, an "Art Votes" button, and some directions.
Were you able to speak to any legislators? What kind of topics or concerns did you bring to the person's attention, and what was the person's response?
I followed Cecille Ericta and Keryl McCord from Alternate Roots as a group. Keryl McCord was inspiring. She knew how to talk to legislators. I unfortunately do not remember a name of one legislator we went to visit, but on her way to another meeting, she greeted each one of us with warm hand shake, learned our names, and listened carefully to Keryl explaining about what Alternate Roots is doing and our plea to move GACAA under the Department of Economic Development and increase the budget for the arts. The legislator remembered Keryl from their past meeting, and she congratulated Alternate Roots for its accomplishment. She did confess it would not be easy, yet that she would try her best. Meeting a legislator who really took time to listen was so very encouraging.
Do you think the event was effective? Why? how?
I think the event was effective to those who attended the Lobby Day to realize a great energy that's happening amongst us. Such encouragement and a sense of community are much needed for us. I know that my experience was positive and I now know what to expect and in what ways I could be more effective. To tell you the truth, I am not a citizen yet—but to be. I have benefited much from Fulton County's great arts program when I was growing up. Now, as an artist, I want to contribute to arts advocacy by educating politicians about arts and its relevancy to the city and its future. The government's funding for the arts will be instrumental in building the city and the state into a great city of arts and culture and that will attract others to the region, benefiting then our economy, as well as its well-being. I realized all this even more through this event.
How do you plan to use this newly acquired information to help Atlanta's arts community with regards to funding?
I will blog more about an urgency in our lack of funding in the arts and see if more dialogues can happen. As I launch my project Stay Here in Atlanta, I am also thinking about introducing the idea of getting involved in arts advocacy to emerging artists in Atlanta.
"Watch out for that odd bedfellow"
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Lucy is a little busy right now:
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Watch out for that odd bedfellow, Libby.
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Requiem for a Dream