There were 19 of us in Washington DC for National Arts Advocacy Day on March 12-13. We spent Monday learning about the issues–from funding for the National Endowment on the Arts to tax law affecting artists and charitable contributions, to the reauthorization of NCLB or ESEA (No Child Left Behind aka the Elementary & Secondary Education Act). Monday night we heard Robert MacNeil deliver an extraordinary lecture at the Kennedy Center speaking of the role of art in our society and how if we stand back and look at the the “big picture,” artistic expression and freedom of such relates to fundamentalism abroad and in our own country. Heady stuff!
Tuesday we walked the halls of the US Congress, many for the first time! We saw 4 congressmen in person–Rep. Rush Holt, Rep. Donald Payne, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, and Rep. Albio Sires, and a host of legislative aides. We used the briefing from Monday to inform our discussions and also found time to talk about how the arts affect many different aspects of life–from healthcare to truancy rates to the revitalization of cities and towns throughout New Jersey.
It’s a rush–lots of information packed into 2 days, an inspiring lecture, the chance to network with other New Jerseyans you don’t often see. In our group was the President of the NJ PTA and his wife who were glad to talk up the arts because their children are all musically inclined. Speaking of musically inclined, we also had a shining young vocalist with us from Westminster Choir College/Rider University who represented the arts advocates of tomorrow!
Here’s the group from left to right standing–Bob Morrison of Music for All, Inc., Greg Perry of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Carol Herbert–Chair of the NJ State Council on the Arts, Berda Rittenhouse of ArtPride, Shayne Miller of Paper Mill Playhouse, Catharine Vaucher of the Arts Council of the Morris Area, David Gray of New Brunswick Cultural Center, Paula Long of the Union County Division of Cultural & Heritage Affairs, Kristen Gongora of Shakespeare Theatre of NJ, and Kristin Wenger of the NJ Arts Education Partnership. Kneeling from left to right are Patterson Sims of the Montclair Art Museum, Alan Willoughby of Perkins Center for the Arts, Larry Schmidt of the South Jersey Cultural Alliance, and Natalie Megules of Westminster Choir Collge. Not pictured are Vicki Snoy of Newark Boys Chorus School, Harry and Donna Capers of the NJ PTA and me–the photographer–Ann Marie Miller. The photo was taken outside of Senator Lautenberg’s office in the Hart Senate Office Building.