by Joey Phoenix
Artists, your voice matters, and I’m not just talking about your artistic voice. I’m talking about your political voice, your community voice, your public voice. It may seem obvious, but one of the ways to use your voice is to vote.
I know you’re all very shocked by this.
The Massachusetts’ Primary Election is coming up in a couple of weeks on March 3rd. (Don’t know where to vote? Use the polling place locator) Massachusetts will host four presidential party primaries – Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, and Green-Rainbow.
For the record, my encouraging you to get out and vote this year is not a partisan argument. ANY leader, regardless of their affiliated party, can make a difference for the arts – some will just do it better than others.*
The truth appears to be that people in governmental organizations won’t automatically prioritize arts funding and creating resources for artists unless their constituents are telling them to do this.
They’re often too busy thinking about national defense and congressional salaries to care about funding the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) or the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) – (If you’d like to read more about how the U.S. funds the arts, click here), establishing a cabinet-level role like a ministry of culture, or to even recognize the importance of arts education or the cultural importance of the arts as a whole.
If artists vote, if artists communicate with their leaders, if artists use their voice to get the attention of those who make policy decisions, then things have the capacity to change. If artists don’t do this, then the policymakers will be guided by businessmen, bankers, lawyers, doctors – all fine people with fine professions, but these will have their needs met, and not you, the artist.
I know as an artist it is sometimes difficult to ask for what you need, especially from those who seem as different from you as politicians, so here are some stats to help convince you.
The Arts Strengthen the Economy
Nationally, the nonprofit arts industry alone generates $166.3 billion in economic activity. (source)
Arts Education Gives Students a Better Chance at Success
A student involved in the arts is four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. (Source)
The Creative Economy Revitalizes Cultural Centers
In 2010, the state legislature authorized the Mass Cultural Council’s Cultural Districts Initiative with the goal to encourage business and job development, preserve and reuse historic buildings, foster local cultural development, and enhance property values. (Source)
But stats aside, take a moment to consider why the arts matter to you, why your art matters to you. Naturally, we could wait until 2020 Arts Advocacy Day on March 31 to bring all of this up, but for this upcoming voting opportunity that would be a bit too late (although we’re still going to be talking about it then, never you fear.)
So sit for a minute, have a think, maybe even make some political art that helps you process all of this new information, and then put down your pen, your paint, your trombone, your dance shoes, your fabric, your knitting needles, whatever your medium is, and go vote on March 3rd.**
* American Singer-Songwriter Ben Folds released a bipartisan podcast series in 2019 called ArtsVote 2020 where he interviews a handful of candidates about their views. As of February 2017, he’s still trying to get in touch with all of the candidates. To view Ballotpedia’s roundup on where the 2020 Presidential candidates stand on education (which often includes the arts) – click here.
** Click here for a full list of important 2020 Voting Dates from Rock the Vote
Joey Phoenix is a non-binary manic scribbler and the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore. They love to get into discussions about gender and how organizations can use more inclusive language to make space for marginalized artists, writers, and makers. If you want to start a conversation, send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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