One more cause
ArtsVoteNH holds to forum bring presidential race attention to the arts
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
No presidential candidates showed up, but five sent local emissaries to speak about their arts-related achievements and plans at the ArtsVoteNH Arts Policy Forum on Thursday, Nov. 29, in Concord. It was the first time the arts were addressed in such a way during a presidential primary, said David Macy, resident director for the MacDowell Colony.
The three-hour forum in the Capitol Center for the Arts was interspersed with performances, starting with a surprise visit from trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis. He said of himself and his brothers, Wynton and Branford, and father Ellis, “I think we follow a long tradition of educators not only in New Orleans but people around the world [who] know that it’s important to extend ourselves to young people.” Before playing “What a Wonderful World,” he said, “We just love this music so much, we’ll do whatever we can to support it.”
Liz Bartolomeo of the Americans for the Arts said the organization plans to host a smaller forum in Iowa in December. ArtsVoteNH is a program of Americans for the Arts and New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts.
With crown in place, Miss New Hampshire Rachel Barker delivered a statistics-filled presentation on “The Power of Arts in Education.”
“Some of the only things that I have kept from my high school years are assignments with artistic value. For example, I kept ... a painting I created in an English class after reading The Great Gatsby. These things I kept because they express my individuality and my uniqueness as a student,” the Souhegan High graduate said. Barker partnered with Tanger Outlets in Tilton for a statewide art supply drive for schools. She referred to studies that show studying arts increases performance in English and math.
The first part of the forum was devoted to arts advocates, and some of the most informative presentations were city-specific. Russ Grazier, president of Art-Speak in Portsmouth, pointed to the “Arts & Economic Prosperity III” study by Americans for the Arts, 2007.
“The arts ... are a serious business. When you look at the study that was done in Portsmouth you start to come up with numbers like $36 million a year contributed to the local economy. This is an economy that has 22,000 residents,” Grazier said. Restaurants and hotels benefit from patrons drawn to arts-related events, he said. Art-Speak ensures that arts interests are included in city economic development discussions, Grazier said.
“Nobody promotes American cities in the federal government. Not one red penny is spent to promote what’s doing here in New Hampshire, or what’s doing in Chicago ... but millions of dollars are spent by the French government promoting Paris,” said Tom Cochran, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The Conference has put out a 10-point plan as a message to presidential candidates, endorsed by its 1,100 mayoral members. It includes a proposal to introduce a secretary of culture to the presidential cabinet.
Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann, chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Arts Committee, opened with a chiding about how the U.S., the promoter of democracy around the world, has one of the lowest percentages of voter turnout. He noted the need for arts education for future competitiveness.
“Tests have shown art-poor students don’t do as well as students who are enhanced and enriched by the arts,” Hannemann said. In Japan, as much emphasis is put on arts and music as on math and science, he said.
Culture is also an anchor for tourism in American cities: “It’s important to have security but it has to be balanced with hospitality,” Hannemann said. “Art is also very important because it can be a tool for mayors to go out and promote their cities,” he added.
Hannemann talked about what the mayors want to ask of presidential aspirants: “We’d like to know how they will respond to the needs of individual cultural practitioners and working artists. We’d like to know what policies and platforms will they implement to ensure the vibrant and sustainable creative industry thrive in each of our cities. And to what extent will arts education … be prioritized in their administration agenda.”
The last time Hannemann was in New Hampshire was 31 years ago, as a Harvard basketball player taking on Dartmouth.
Hannemann awarded a student from Concord’s Beaver Meadow elementary school a DVD of the mayor singing a Christmas song for correctly answering that Hawaii has four electoral votes.
Stamford, Conn., mayor Dannel Malloy asked New Hampshire voters to put pressure on presidential candidates regarding arts issues. He relayed his local music story of seeing Aerosmith perform in Sunapee.
Bob Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts Action Fund, talked about that group’s ten-point plan distributed to presidential candidates. It includes recognizing the role arts and culture play in education, economic development, healthcare, transportation and other issues.
“Oftentimes the arts are not discussed as a prominent factor in major national policy decisions on education and quality of life even though we see it all around us and live it in our lives in any city in our country,” Lynch said.
The plan includes rural and service learning initiatives.
U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes closed the forum and noted that this Congress increased NEA funding by 28 percent.
“All the bombs and missiles we possess are not as powerful as what is possible through cultural and artistic diplomacy.... We need a government and a society that values integrity, and idealism, and imagination. And that’s what the arts teaches us.... It is the reason why kids in Syria and Lebanon and Iran and Iraq wear T-shirts with the pictures with American rock stars.”
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Five presidential candidates sent local emissaries to address the arts voters.
Sen. Hillary Clinton
• Represented by: Shirley Sagawa, an expert in youth policy who worked as a deputy chief of staff to Clinton when she was First Lady.
• Gist: As First Lady, Clinton expanded the Arts and Humanities award program. In the Senate, Clinton cosponsored an act to allow artists to deduct fair market value for work they donate. Sagawa quoted from a New York Times op-ed Clinton wrote as First Lady: “One of the great successes of the arts in America is that they are not the preserve of any cultural elite. ... If public support for the arts disappears, those most affected will not be the richest Americans but the millions of citizens who rely on the NEA to bring the arts to their local schools and communities.”
Rep. Barack Obama
• Represented by: Peggo Hodes, who heads the voice and choral departments at Concord Community Music School. Married to U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes.
• Gist: Talked about Obama’s platform for arts, which includes increasing National Endowment for the Arts funding. “That’s just unconscionable for the leader of the free world to slash the arts budget. It’s how we communicate and understand other cultures,” Hodes said about Bush’s cuts to the NEA. Obama proposes increasing cultural diplomacy through an artist exchange, Hodes said. Obama also included a plan for artists to buy into an affordable health care package, and agrees with Clinton regarding fair tax deductions for artists.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee
• Represented by: Fred Bramante, founder of Daddy’s Junky Music stores and a member of the State Board of Education.
• Gist: “We will have a Renaissance in the United States in arts if Governor Huckabee is elected to the United States,” Bramante said. Huckabee was scheduled to perform with a Tilton school band Nov. 30. In his introduction to a report from the Governor’s Commission on the Arts in Education, Huckabee wrote, “… the arts offer many practical benefits. In fact, I would suggest that the future of our economy is based on establishing a creative class and creating a generation of people who can think artistically.”
Gov. Bill Richardson
• Represented by: State Rep. Steve Spratt
• Gist: Spratt outlined several arts initiatives Richardson launched as governor of New Mexico, including instituting an Elementary Fine Arts Education Act and an Arts Trail guide, which lists 200 artists who welcome the public to their studios. One of his programs trains artists to market themselves and stimulate income for their communities. “What he’s done in New Mexico is doable,” Spratt said. Richardson plans to reinstate arts education in schools and increase NEA funding if elected president, Spratt said.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich
• Represented by: Pat Frisella, president of the New Hampshire Poetry Society
• Gist: Kucinich sees art as part of daily life and a standard part of curriculum, Frisella said. She pointed to his theater background and noted that he is well-read, frequently quoting from Emerson, Yates and the U.S. Constitution. Frisella reminded folks that normally a poet is chosen to read at presidential inaugurations.
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