Arts Advocacy Day 2004
The American Guild of Organists joined 69 other arts, cultural, business, civic, and educational organizations as a national co-sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day, the national arts action summit organized by Americans for the Arts. The three-day summit in Washington, D.C. (March 2931) attracted more than 250 concerned individuals representing the interests of each of their respective organizations. These groups were a veritable “who’s who” of national arts organizations including the AFM, AGO, ASCAP, ASOL, Chorus America, Dance/USA, MENC, MTNA, and Opera America, among many others. The National Music Council, of which the AGO is a member, was also represented.
This was the third year for the AGO to participate as an active voice, representing its organizational interests and the interests of its more than 20,000 members throughout the U.S. and abroad. AGO Director of Development and Communications F. Anthony Thurman served as the Guild’s delegate. Two days of discussion and arts advocacy training served as a prelude to a full day of scheduled meetings on Capitol Hill in the offices of members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Dr. Thurman participated in these visits to lobby for the AGO’s interests and for increased funding for the arts and humanities through the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In summary, the 2004 legislative requests included:
National Endowment for the Arts
Support for a budget of $170 million in 2005. This would nearly restore the NEA to its 1990 level of funding, which at the time was equal to 69 cents per capita. Today, the federal government spends just 40 cents per capita.
National Endowment for the Humanities
Support for a budget of $162 million in 2005, an increase of $26.7 million. The NEH is the largest single funder of humanities programs in the U.S., providing grants in the areas of education, research, public programs, and preserving and providing access to cultural resources.
Arts in Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education
Support for an increase of $53 million in 2005 to ensure that the arts can continue to be a vibrant component of public school curricula. Research has proved that many positive effects of arts education include higher achievement in other subjects, increased motivation to learn, better discipline, as well as the intrinsic value of better knowledge of and abilities in the arts.
Enhancing Tax Deductibility of Charitable Gifts
Support for legislation that would provide a modest deduction for charitable gifts to taxpayers who do not itemize their returns, and enable individuals to roll over IRA funds to charities without penalty.
Allow Artists a Tax Deduction for Gifts of Their Own Work
Support to enact H.R.806 and its companion bill, S.287 that would allow artists to take the same fair market value deduction for their own work that other individuals currently enjoy for gifs of art to charities. At present, artists can only deduct the value of the materials used to create their workpencil, paper, ink, and paintrather than the true market value of their finished work.
Improving the Visa Process for International Artists
Support for reform in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to ensure timely processing of not-for-profit arts-related visa petitions. At a time when international cultural exchange is of great value to the interest of the U.S., not-for-profit arts organizations confront delays and uncertainties in obtaining approval for visa petitions for international guest artists. Current law requires a maximum, 14-day process, however at present it can take the CIS up to six months to process the visa categories used by foreign artists.
Cultural Exchange Programs in the U.S. Department of State
Support to increase funding by $10 million in 2005 to strengthen mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries by promoting personal, professional, and institutional ties between private citizens and organizations in the U.S. and abroad.
Arts Advocacy Day is a national advocacy and grassroots campaign representing the interests of thousands of arts, cultural, business, civic, and educational groups and individuals nationwide. For detailed legislative issue briefs, please visit the Americans for the Arts Web site, www.AmericansForTheArts.org.
Submitted by F. Anthony Thurman
Director of Development and Communications