A smiling woman with blond curly hair
Senior Program Director, Research & Creative Economy

NEFA’s New England Creative Economy Network connects creative community leaders from around the region to discuss New England creative economy models, priorities, and strategies. The goals of the network are to:

  • Formalize and increase connections among practitioners
  • Spotlight creative economy projects
  • Share resources across communities
  • Brainstorm on New England priorities and strategies

The NECE Network is a peer group convened by NEFA, but it is important to note that it is led by its participants. Since the topic of advocacy had been raised in prior meetings, and with election season firmly upon us, NEFA asked two statewide advocacy organizations - New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts and MassCreative  - to discuss their strategies and field questions regarding local examples of political partnerships and policy making at this quarter’s meeting, held at UNH Manchester.

One of these state-wide advocacy organization is volunteer run and one has funding and staff, but both have similar goals of generating public funding, public policy, and public recognition/value for the arts. NHCFA has had to mobilize multiple times to prevent the complete nullification of the entire NH Department of Cultural Resources, and has therefore necessarily focused on building relationships with – and changing the minds of – state legislators. MassCreative has highlighted the arts platforms of Boston mayoral and MA gubernatorial candidates, but has also focused on generating support from the grassroots – applying community organizer tactics to the arts. Regardless of the specific goal of the advocacy activity, there are many lessons these organizations shared that can be applied to local campaigns:

  1. Tap unlikely support (or universal support) – from within the community, not necessarily the arts leaders
  2. Relate to legislators (or candidates, or whoever you’re advocating to…) as people. Tell them stories – preferably in the first person. And let them tell theirs. This is a unique asset of the arts sector and we need to use it!
  3. Use the tools available to you – school essay contest and kid art postcards; social media campaigns for Arts Day, etc.; arts alerts, surveys, and candidate assessments
  4. Use the data: economic impact, arts education impact, community impacts
  5. Organize events that include everyone – leverage partnerships from business community, etc. – to show the strength of the constituency (arts not “grass tops” or elite thing that is nice to have – it is crucial for communities and popular!)
  6. Ask the arts community what they need, and then prioritize. Focus on benefits for many, encourage collaboration vs. competition for resources. Do projects that are winnable, engaging, impactful, inclusive, and effective long term.

Next steps:

  • Connect with each state advocacy organization - or state arts agency if you don’t have an advocacy organization and ask about how to get involved
  • Use national resources – Americans for the Art’s Voter Voice (send action alerts and surveys, manage advocacy campaigns and petitions) and Arts Action Fund, NASAA advocacy tools, other?
  • Step up as leader in your community to connect others to these resources
  • Adapt state strategies to the local level (inviting grassroots participation, ongoing dialogue with policy makers – not just when you need something, generating clearly articulated messages and goals, rating local legislators on arts activity…)

 Interested in learning more?

Thanks to UNH Manchester for hosting this meeting - and to all of those who participated!