Earlier this month members of the Artist Trust staff & board journeyed to the state capital in Olympia, WA to participate in Arts & Heritage Day 2019. This annual event gave us an opportunity to meet with legislators to advocate for the arts and heritage community, discuss statewide initiatives, and speak on the importance of arts and culture throughout the state of Washington.
This year as Artist Trust increases its grant funding opportunities and initiatives to serve artist across Washington State, this was an exceptional occasion to learn more about advocacy at the state level, and meet with other arts and heritage organizations. For many of us, this was our first attempt at lobbying for the arts, and we are grateful for the time we had with each legislator to discuss our mission at Artist Trust, as well as the stories and concerns of the artists we serve.
Artist Trust Program Manager, Lydia Boss explains, “I expected Arts & Heritage Day to be a very busy, but a very informative day. I anticipated that there would be a wide range of people, organizations, and initiatives represented amongst the group of lobbyists, all centered on the arts in WA State.”
Leading up to the event, we learned that there was a need for representation in Pierce County and as a state-wide organization, we were able to meet with two Legislators that represent regions in that area, Representative Wilcox of District 2, and Representative Caldier of District 26.
As Boss explains, it was a hectic sight, and arts advocates from across the state were eager to begin as groups organized themselves for meetings with various legislators. Our morning began with a ceremonial welcome and briefing on how to approach our meetings throughout the day and as newcomers, it was helpful to hear from seasoned advocates about how to approach the legislators and how to stay focused throughout each session. After our short briefing of what to expect and typical meeting etiquette, we were on our way.
Because one of the major goals of the event is to meet with as many legislators as possible throughout the day, we found that our best tactic as A & H novices was to band together as a group and make a few friends along the way who could help us navigate our sessions.
During our meetings, we discussed initiatives that would either increase or maintain funding for organizations such as ArtsWA, Washington State Historical Society, and Heritage Capital Projects, among others. Each of these organizations fund and support artists, arts organizations, and artist programs across Washington State and are essential to the diverse artistic and cultural atmosphere in our region.
Although our meetings were swift, they were stimulating and enlightening. We learned firsthand about how an initiative is passed and in what ways our state legislators can be ambassadors not only for their counties but for the arts and culture sector overall.
As an organization that advocates for artists, we wanted to share our group takeaways in hopes that it will benefit any individual, artists or organizations interested in doing art & heritage advocacy work, and invite questions about to get involved, and how to stay involved.
Tips for Arts & Heritage Day 2020:
• Come with an open mind: If you don’t know much about a legislator’s position, don’t worry! Arts and heritage advocacy is not dependent on one’s political party or affiliation.
• Do your research and make a plan: Create assignments within your team to look up each legislator and initiatives, and produce multiple talking points that are both broad, and specific to your organization.
• Network and pair up: If you’re new to advocacy work, get out there and network with organization and folks who have similar interest and create a connection! (This should be everyone in the room!)
• Have your examples ready to show: Legislator are VERY busy people, and meetings can go quick! Try and prepare collateral about you or your organization to emphasize the importance of your work.
• Give yourself breaks: Lobbying is not easy work! Bring snacks, take breaks and go explore the capital with friends.
• Be consistent: Check back on the initiatives that you’re lobbying for! And thank the legislators that met with you.
• Check the Arts & Heritage website: To learn more about resources available, check out the Arts & Heritage website here, and review their advocacy toolkit.