March 20–21 marks Arts Advocacy Day, when cultural organizations and grassroots advocates meet with members of Congress in Washington, DC, to rally support for policies and public funding for the arts. And it’s a particularly urgent time. In addition to advocating for arts education policies and charitable tax deductions, these groups will be fighting to continue funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, which has been marked for elimination in President Trump’s recent budget proposal. While some consider the NEA a waste of taxpayer money, it’s worth noting that it distributes arts grants to every Congressional district in the U.S. and makes up only 0.004 percent of the federal budget (less than $0.50 per person, per year).
While Trump’s budget proposal still faces a long road towards approval, the news has shaken many in the dance community, where budgets—especially among smaller, more regional organizations—are particularly fragile. In a curtain speech at a recent performance of New York Theatre Ballet, a company of 13 dancers, artistic director Diana Byer noted that, “dance has often been given short shrift in the overall funding picture, but we couldn’t live without the state and federal funding support we do get.” Larger and more financially stable organizations such as Lincoln Center have also issued statements, noting that the Endowment’s influence is so strong that “every dollar the NEA contributes leads to nine additional dollars being donated from other sources.”
So what can you do? Dance/USA, a national partner for Arts Advocacy Day, is urging the dance community to contact their Congressional leaders through this form letter, which you can easily personalize if you prefer. Once you fill in the fields, the site will automatically send it to your Senators and Representatives. Dance/USA also recommends making appointments with lawmakers to talk about how the arts have made a positive impact in your community, and to show them by inviting them to visit your organization. For more information on how to get involved, click here.