What Would You Encourage President Obama To Do About The Arts?

My blogging colleague, Joe Patti, published a wonderful article on 1/23/2013 titled Letter To The President On The Occasion of His Second Term. I had originally planned to join Joe with a letter of my own but work has kept it in draft form but I am bound and determined to get it finalized and published this week.

150x150_ITA_Guy003In the meantime, it seems clear that readers genuinely care about a politician’s position on the arts; two of the most popular
posts at the end of 2012 touched on the value of a candidate’s position on arts and arts education funding.

Consequently, now that the elections are over and President Obama has been sworn in for a second term, I’m very curious to know what you would write to him, or any of your elected representatives, regarding the arts. Take a moment to leave your thoughts in a comment below.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “What Would You Encourage President Obama To Do About The Arts?”

  1. It seems like the most a president can do is offer symbolic gestures towards the arts. He has little sway in actual policy matters but he can do things like host musicians in the East Room of the White House (or have them at his inauguration). Those things put the spotlight on classical music in ways that the industry itself never can.

    On the other hand, there’s little to gain by standing up for the arts on a real dollars-and-cents level. The Republicans will use it against him and it’s not an industry that adds a lot to the economy. But one can always hope a larger sense of mission would prevail.

  2. In 2008 and again in 2012, I did a little personal study in which I downloaded the Democratic and Republican party platforms, as well as transcripts of the major speeches from both parties’ conventions. I then did a simple word search for “music,” “arts,” and “theater.” The number of hits was embarrassingly small. It would be nice if politicians would mention us. There exists a “President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities” (bonus points for those who know who established it.) On their website is a quote from the current First Lady:

    “The arts and humanities define who we are as a people. That is their power — to remind us of what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common. To help us understand our history and imagine our future. To give us hope in the moments of struggle and to bring us together when nothing else will.”

    —Michelle Obama

    When that quote comes out of the mouth of an elected official during a major policy address, then we will have made some progress. (Especially if they actually believe it!)

    They also need to make the case that money spent on the arts (and science for that matter) doesn’t disappear into a black hole. Money spent on the arts (and science!) builds things and employs people. From casual conversations with people outside the arts, there is a belief that money spent on concert tickets or music lessons is tantamount to setting dollar bills aflame. I want to yell: “That money doesn’t disappear! It actually goes to people who buy things and contribute to our economy!” Money spent on the arts in the USA contributes directly and indirectly to the US economy. It also contributes directly to the quality of the lives we lead.

    I think somewhere in there is a sentence or two that, in the hands of a decent speechwriter, would be very much at home in a major policy address given by the President and qualify as actual bipartisan leadership that everyone could agree on.

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