Artist-Led Policy Platform

To ensure that the arts and creativity were a key issue in the 2015 mayoral race in Nashville, TN, the Metro Nashville Arts Commission (public sector) and the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville (private sector) spearheaded creation of a coalition of artists and creative businesses called "the Creative Edge" recognizing that, simply put, creative people are Nashville's competitive edge.

Led by a steering committee of 15 artists and arts supporters, the Creative Edge coalition grew to include of over 150 artists, artist cooperatives, and creative businesses. The Creative Edge platform identified four areas for the next Mayor of Nashville to focus on for investment and public policy to support the creative community and hosted a mayoral forum (attended by all of the mayoral candidates) to seek commitments on these issues.

Thanks in part to this effort, Nashville elected the most arts-friendly Mayor and City Council in recent memory.  Further, the Mayor has already made good on one of the four commitments which was appointing a position in the Mayor's Office to coordinate policy and services to members of the creative industries.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Advocacy

Artists Creating Their Own Voice

We are certainly looking at how we support artists in them creating their own voice for why the arts matter and not necessarily crafting a message that is something that they can parrot but encouraging them to create their own message and, and telling us how they can steward that message out into the ears that will make an impact.

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Creating a Platform for Artist Activism

Max Slavkin, Co-Founder & CEO of Creative Action Network, tells the story of the organization’s founding inspired by the impact of the Shephard Fairy HOPE poster on President Barack Obama’s political campaign.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Advocacy

An Artists’ Congress

There’s a group that is interested in organizing something called an artists’ congress. We’re going to be bringing together artists from New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts to explore how to respond in a time like this, a time when there are lots of things that seem uncertain politically. We want to understand how the creative sectors come together and how are they responding these times.

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Advocating with Artists

We work wherever we can to serve as arts advocates for the whole creative community, including artists. We’ve had a direct link through our partnership that we have with our local arts, or state arts advocacy organization. So whenever there’s an issue that comes in through the state or the national endowment, we utilize emails and letters, and we have a database of artists and arts patrons here. And whenever there’s a call to action, we directly disseminate that and ask artists to do the same in order to drive that forward. A recent example: the editorial board of our local newspaper produced a fairly uninformed and misguided response or commentary on defunding the National Endowment for the Arts. We wrote an essay in response. Our normal reach on something like that, through social media would be, on a good day for our organization, would be about five hundred. The creative community, artists, and organizations picked up the messaging, and it reached over twelve thousand people. By articulating how artists are benefiting from these types of investments, artists advocate as well.

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Engaging Artists in All Our Advocacy Efforts

We try to engage artists in all of our advocacy efforts, especially in helping to inform us about how our funding works for them or against them. It’s an open dialogue between the individual artists and arts organizations and us.

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Advocating for Particularly Vulnerable Artists

Jenifer Simon, Director of Programs + Outreach for CERF+, describes their efforts to ensure that artists who are dealing with disasters have a voice at the table.

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Empowering Artists to Be Advocates

A lot of people actually are not aware of the power that one voice can do by just picking up the phone and just speaking out. We provide all of our individual artists with phone numbers, emails, and access to information to teach them how to advocate by and for themselves. We teach them how to call their local, state, national, and federal politicians, and we link them with Americans for the Arts and similar organizations. By empowering them inform themselves, we’re teaching them to advocate for themselves.

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Advocating for Artists as a Code Switcher

Our role in advocating for artists often comes as a code switcher. We try to speak as many “languages” as possible. We listen to organizations that might be potential partners to artists, and we act as intermediary to increase accessibility for artists. Some artists really excel in running organizations and speaking these languages, and we’re here to help the others.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Advocacy

Rallying Artists for the Greater Good

We had just experienced budget cuts of fifty percent, so we did a very wide-reaching campaign. At that point, we also had galleries where artists could show their work. It did affect all of those things. We had some good timing on our side and a really nice pipeline into all the individual artists at the start of our campaign. And we brought a lot of people together. We actually brought in an outside facilitator to help us do this as well. We rallied the artists and many of these artists, who weren’t recipients of the grant program, understood the greater good of why the arts were critical to the city. And I think because we invited them to the table, the artists really came out in support. We ended up having a First Friday – a gallery night – which is a huge celebration across the region. It happened, I want to say, literally three weeks after we heard that the budget was going to get cut, and we worked with artists to create a number of things that talked about funding for the arts. We made tee shirts that talked about funding for the arts. We had somebody underwrite the production of those tee shirts and we raised about $5,000 just by giving out the shirts. We said, “These are free, but if you wanted, you could give some money to help support this advocacy campaign.” And they became kind of collector’s item. They were created by artists, and we gave them away in all the different galleries.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Advocacy

A City Plan Created without Artists

Casey Summar, Independent Consultant and former Executive Director of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville, shares a cautionary tale about the lack of artists at the table for creating the previous strategic plan for the city of Nashville in the 1990s.

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Working with Artists Behind-the-Scenes

I think the work that we do with individual artists around advocacy is very strategic and behind the scenes, because we, as an arts agency, are allowed to educate and inform but we’re not allowed to advocate. So, we work as an agency, most specifically providing individual artists or teams of artists with resources, strategy, people, evaluators; we function as a support to them in order for them to articulate their interests and their concerns.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Advocacy