You know the value of what you do – you see it every day in the progress your students make, the music they create together and the relationships they form with each other – but sometimes it can be difficult to convince those outside your classroom about the value that music and the arts bring to your students’ and all of our lives.
Not only are the arts a vital channel for expression and creativity, but they positively affect other areas of life and learning as well. The arts improve wellbeing – 63% of the US population believes the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences” and 73% say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.” Studies have shown that students who participate in the arts have higher grade point averages, better attendance rates and are more likely graduate than their non-musically engaged peers. Children’s brains develop faster with music training. Participation in music and arts programs increases decision making abilities, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and emotional awareness.
It is important for music educators not only to be knowledgeable about the benefits of the arts, but also to actively advocate for the arts at all levels – in your schools and communities, as well as at the state and national level.
Luckily, there are many organizations nationwide that are dedicated to advocating for the arts. Whether you’re a seasoned arts advocate or are just starting out, check out these organizations for tools, resources and tips for effective arts advocacy:
Americans for the Arts – Americans for the Arts is the United States’ leading, nation-wide arts advocacy organization with the mission of advancing the arts in the US. The organization undertakes and publishes research related to all aspects of the arts in society including arts and health, arts education and the arts’ role in the economy, all intended to serve arts advocates. The Arts Action Fund is a branch of Americans for the Arts which focuses on mobilizing arts advocates with tools and training on how to talk to legislators about the value of the arts.
Music for All – Music for All is one of the largest and most influential national music education organizations in support of active music making. The organization combines programming at a national level, including programs like Orchestra America and Bands of America, with arts education advocacy. They provide arts advocacy resources at all levels, including tools for teachers who want to better advocate for their program within their schools and communities.
National Arts Education Association (NAEA) – The NAEA invests in innovative initiatives to support instructional practice, research and leadership in visual arts education. Though the organization focuses on visual arts education, its website features a robust advocacy hub with applicable resources for music teachers and arts advocates of all disciplines.
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) – The NEA is an independent federal agency that funds, promotes and strengthens the creative capacity of communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation. The NEA funds arts organizations and projects of all disciplines across the country and has a wealth of publications on research about the value and impact of the arts in the US.
Performing Arts Alliance – The Performing Arts Alliance advocates for America’s professional nonprofit arts sector before Congress and key policy makers. Their website features all kinds of tools for arts advocates at all stages including a Basics of Arts Advocacy toolkit and an Arts Advocacy Issue Center.
State arts agencies are great sources of information on state-specific arts legislation and advocacy. All 50 states have state arts agencies and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies directory can help you find out more information about the one where you live! In addition to online resources, arts advocacy organizations at all levels often offer free arts advocacy training. Americans for the Arts hosts an annual Arts Advocacy Day in Washington DC and last year, Encore Tours participated in Arts Matter Advocacy Day (AMAD) by MASSCreative, a Boston-area organization that works to build a more vibrant, healthy and equitable Massachusetts by supporting the arts and cultural communities.
This year, MASSCreative is kicking off their newest campaign, Create the Vote 2018, a nonpartisan public education campaign to raise awareness and support for arts, culture, and creative expression. Learn more about the campaign here and RSVP to a launch party near you!
You work hard to provide opportunities for your students to benefit from the value that the music and the arts provide. Arts advocacy is the key to ensuring that your music program is supported within your school and community, and that at the state and national level, the arts are recognized for the immense value they bring to our individual lives, communities and nation.