COLUMBIA - For the past 35 years, the Missouri Citizens for the Arts and their supporters have gathered in the Capitol every February to advocate for the art industry. This year, the decision was made to transform this one day event into a week long, virtual event.
Kyna Iman, the Governmental Affairs Consultant for the Missouri Citizens for the Arts, has worked with the group and advocated for the arts in Missouri for the past 32 years.
“This is the first time in 32 years that there hasn’t been over 200 arts advocates in the state Capitol on the first Wednesday of February celebrating Missouri arts and the Missouri council award winners,” Iman said.
After going virtual this week, she described meeting with both legislators and advocates virtually, to be challenging. Although the week has been virtual, personal connections are just as critical to advocacy as ever. Iman explained that the biggest goal of art advocacy is to have legislators know who the money is going to, and where it is going.
“When they see the line item for funding for the Missouri Arts Council (MAC), I want them to see the advocate’s faces,” Iman said.
She also expressed the importance of arts “not being just another line item on the budget”.
Trent Rash, Executive Director of the Missouri Symphony, attended the day at the Capitol last year. This year, things are quite different. Being a week long event rather than one day creates the opportunity for organization leaders to set aside time to focus on advocacy.
“What it did was create an intentional time to stop and intentionally think ‘What can I do to advocate for the arts during this week?’” Rash said. “It’s important because those in the trenches of leadership can sometimes see advocacy take a back burner.”
But advocacy did not take a back burner this year. Due to the pandemic causing difficulty for in-person lobbying, Rash has found himself advocating for the arts more than ever.
“I have contacted representatives and senators at the federal level more than I ever have before,” Rash said.
While virtual events are a great way to stay in touch with the community during the pandemic, the removal of in-person events has significantly impacted arts funding.
Funding for the MAC comes from income tax collected by the Missouri Department of Revenue on "Non-resident Professional Athletes and Entertainers." This means that if events don’t happen, no income tax is collected, and funding is not given out.
Arts organizations saw this happen just last spring, in April. Funding for the arts last year was a $4.8 million appropriation from the Missouri House and Senate, but by the fourth quarter, some of that money was withheld, around $1.1 million worth.
According to Iman, people think art groups can survive 100% off of the funds they receive from MAC,. In reality, it is a small part of their funding.
One of the biggest impacts of receiving a MAC grant, is what Iman calls a “seal of good faith." This means that if money is withheld from MAC grantees, it becomes harder for them to fundraise towards other private entities.
Due to the pandemic, Board Member of Missouri Citizens for the Arts Marie Nau Hunter says “there is no more critical year for advocacy than this.”
Advocacy is crucial for groups like Missouri Citizens for the Arts, because that is how they lobby for federal funding. Rash explained that a lot of advocacy for the arts has come from the League of American Orchestras. Whether it was arguing for both COVID-19 relief packages, or even allocating funding in the yearly budget, advocates for the arts focus on what it does for the community.
“We are always asking, ‘How does this music/art impact people? Why is it necessary to society? How does it enrich the community?’” Rash said.
While they may ask themselves that, the evidence of the benefits art has on society is out there.
In 2014, the MAC awarded $7.1 million to 606 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. Of those 606 organizations, MAC grantees produced 16,026 arts events attended by 8.6 million people (the population of Missouri is about 6 million). The grantees also provided 6,178 full and part-time jobs and hired 54,860 artists.
While jobs and event attendance are important, the fiscal benefits are also clear. Of the 606 organizations, they paid $145 million in salaries, which generated about $4.3 million in state tax revenues. Grantees generated $192 million in revenue, and in total, the Nonprofit Arts Industry in Missouri generates $1.1 billion in statewide economic activity.
Although the economic benefits are significant, another large impact of the arts is on education.
According to the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education (MAAE), higher high school graduation rates correlate with student participation in arts education, as well as higher standardized test scores in Math and Communication Arts.
Along with encouraging success, the arts can also decrease behavioral problems. According to the MAAE, the level of student participation in fine arts classes is significantly related to student disciplinary rates.
When looking at how the arts impact society, Nau Hunter asked “how do we study history?”
To answer her own question she explained that history is learned through literature, paintings, sculptures, and music.
“The arts are what we use to document our lives, and essentially history,” she said.
Creating the connection between funding the arts and why the arts need support, is one of the most important aspects in art advocacy.
This year, one of the pieces of literature legislators were given during the advocacy week, had the quote “No Missouri recovery, without Missouri creativity.”
Nau Hunter stressed that in so many ways, creativity helps solve problems and come to resolutions.