Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Inviting Conservatives to the Arts Advocacy Table

Posted by Bruce Miller
I had a lively and informative conversation this afternoon with a conservative Republican party delegate who also happens to be an arts supporter. I have always believed that, on principle, funding Virginia's nonprofit arts organizations should be on the conservative agenda. It was wonderful to have a full-bodied discussion with a Republican who agrees.

The Commonwealth's nonprofit arts organizations are all about conserving appreciation for and presentation of art forms that have been around for generations. If this conservation ceases to take place, the great art experiences that so enriched the lives of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents will be all but lost to modern temptations such as bar hopping, video gaming, the Internet, and social media. Nonprofit arts organizations conserve the arts in the same way that parks conserve nature and libraries conserve literature. Doesn't everyone want to keep these great resources alive for our children and grandchildren?

The Commonwealth's nonprofit arts organizations are a vital engine of economic development and sound fiscal planning. Healthy and accomplished arts organizations lure major employers to relocate to Virginia cities. Nonprofit arts organizations themselves, like all small businesses, generate thousands of jobs, thereby boosting the economy. In fact, nonprofit arts organizations tend to be uniquely labor intensive. We've yet to reach the point where robots paint our pictures, dance in our ballets, play in our symphonies, sing in our operas, or act in our theatres. We are not a mechanized industry; we're a people industry--the best kind to have in a flagging economy.

Unique among most businesses (small or otherwise), the Commonwealth's nonprofit arts organizations are integrally tied to education. Many if not most perform in schools, welcome students into exhibits and performances, and, when involving students in performance or production, teach the 21 Century workforce skills that are so in demand: creative problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking, etc.

The Commonwealth's nonprofit arts organizations bring money from out of state into Virginia. Much like the film industry, for which Gov McDonnell sought and won increased funding, our nonprofit arts industry has an overall economic impact that greatly exceeds that of most small businesses. We attract audiences from neighboring states into Virginia to see our exhibits and performances. We develop artistic products in state, spending millions in labor and production expenses, and then pay back that investment by touring the programs to paying audiences living throughout the nation.

My new conservative Republican friend could not have agreed more with each of these points. Together, we are going to be assembling a small committee of like-minded conservatives to meet one evening at Barksdale to develop a list of talking points that will encourage other conservatives to begin to appreciate the common sense importance of public support for the arts. In a second meeting, we're going to invite the chairs of various local Republican committees to discuss the issue with us, and allow us to speak to their memberships at their monthly meetings.

If you or anyone you know is a conservative, politically active Republican who understands the value of public support of the nonprofit arts, please get in touch with me. We would LOVE to have you join us in our effort to find common ground between Republicans and Democrats, arts supporters and arts novices, all of whom want the same thing--an economically healthy, educationally vibrant Virginia--ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of this no longer new 21st Century.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

philcrosby said...

Bruce, this is a wonderful approach and I applaud your doing it! Do you know John Reid? I think he may now live in DC, but has been involved in Republican politics for ages (was Gov Allen's press secretary) and he is a very big supporter of the arts. To jar your memory, he was the Channel 8 morning anchor back in the day.