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Spring in Washington, D.C. signals cherry blossoms and throngs of citizens descending on Capitol Hill to advocate for numerous causes. Earlier this week, I joined in the rite of spring to participate in Arts Advocacy Day, an annual event sponsored by Americans for the Arts. For the past six years, I’ve been the Connecticut State captain for Advocacy Day, which means I get to play the Pied Piper, leading a mighty group of arts advocates on Congressional visits. We spent the first day in policy briefings, listening to facts and figures to help us make our case on issues ranging from funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and arts education programs funded by the Department of Education to the importance of preserving the charitable tax deduction.

A glimpse at our requests:

Increase funding of the NEA to $155 million.  In FY14, the NEA is funded at $146 million. At this current level, the agency appropriation amounts to just 46 cents per capita. Sobering fact: In 1992, per capita funding of the arts was at 70 cents per capita.

Preserve the charitable deduction for arts and culture. As Congress considers tax reform, there have been proposals to eliminate or cap the tax deduction for charitable contributions. There’s also been some talk of favoring certain types of charities over others   (as if arts organizations are not true charities). We know such tax changes would lead to decreased giving. Not good.

Advocacy Day itself begins with a rousing Congressional Breakfast, with inspiring speeches by legislative champions and a few arts stars to get us revved up to lead the charge for the arts. This year, our small band of advocates included the passionate arts leader Carol Ross, who serves on the board of Neighborhood Music School and chairs the board of the National Guild of Community Arts Education. We schlepped through the spring snow, made our way through security and navigated the tunnels of legislative office buildings to pay visits to five Congressional offices.

I am pleased and proud to report that Connecticut has an awesome delegation. Our incredible Rosa DeLauro has scored an A+ on Americans for the Arts’ report card, based on her voting record in support of the arts. Our senators have both joined the Senate Cultural Caucus. In visit after visit, legislative staffers responsible for the arts portfolio shared with us their strong support for arts funding and the role of the arts in their districts.

To learn more about important arts issues and how you can add your voice in support of the arts visit: http://www.americansforthearts.org/advocate

Article by Cindy Clair, Executive Director at The Arts Council of Greater New Haven