Increased Funding for the Arts in Colorado and More Legislative Victories

The 2013 legislative session was extremely successful for the arts in Colorado. The passage of Senate Bill 13-133 restored funding for Colorado Creative Industries to $2 million for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. This is an increase of over $800,000 in funds from the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The efforts of Speaker Mark Ferrandino, Senator Pat Steadman, and Representative Cherri Gerou were key to the passage of this legislation.

Another legislative success was the passage of House Bill 13-1208, “Incentives Offered by Creative Districts”. This bill expands the ability of Colorado Creative Industries to support communities through the establishment of creative districts within Colorado. Creative districts may now receive infrastructure development grants from Colorado Creative Industries. Support provided by these grants includes, but is not limited to: a) installation and maintenance of temporary and permanent art in public spaces, b) professional services related to the creative district, and c) community engagement opportunities.


New Resources Section on the Arts for Colorado Website

Are you looking for resources to help you improve your advocacy skills, or to learn more about arts policies that can benefit you and your organization? Arts for Colorado’s new Resources page can help. This section of the Arts for Colorado Web site provides links to resources in which arts advocates can learn things such as how to locate an elected official, how to receive legislative updates, and more! Also on the site are audio and/or text summaries of past Arts for Colorado events. These events include Salvador Acevedo’s presentation on multicultural audience engagement; the report on Portland, Oregon’s funding initiative to restore arts education in that city; and the Steven J. Tepper talk regarding how artistic practice and training are relevant 21st century creative skills. To view the new Resources section of the Arts for Colorado site, click here.


Meet AFC Board Member Jay Seller

Jay Seller is a long-time arts educator and an accomplished arts advocate. To his work, he brings over 31 years of success in the areas of leadership, education, and program management. In addition to his current position on the Arts for Colorado governing board, Seller has held leadership roles in many organizations. These include the Colorado Thespians, the Educational Theatre Association, and the Colorado Alliance of Arts Education. In a recent interview with Arts for Colorado, Seller talked about the importance of the arts and youth engagement in the arts. He also offered tips for starting an advocacy conversation with individuals who are not generally supportive of the arts.

How did you become involved with arts-related advocacy?

As an arts educator, I was dismayed that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation of 2001 was not supportive of the arts in education. In schools across the nation, the impact of that legislation was immediately manifest in the elimination of arts education opportunities. A foundational theme of NCLB was a focus on “tested subjects.” As an arts teacher, I knew I needed to sell my program and the value of what the arts can do to change a child’s life. Standard testing approaches do not always capture this core outcome.

What have you learned about arts-related advocacy by serving on the Arts for Colorado board?

As an Arts for Colorado board member I have learned that time, passion, and drive can change the minds of elected officials–even those who do not typically support the arts. Arts advocates who can initiate a discussion with an elected official on an arts-related topic that they both can agree on increase the chance of winning the case for their cause. Almost every person has a moment in his or her life where he or she was affected by an experience or encounter with some kind of artistic endeavor. If you can pull those moments out of these people, and remind them of the emotion they experienced, you can win them over.

As the theatre director for Adams 12 Five Star Schools, how have you engaged youth in the arts?

My department offers five full productions during the course of the school year. That schedule keeps our staff of two full-time teachers directing theatre everyday after school–and it is a key means of engaging the students. In addition to my role as a theatre director, I keep myself knowledgeable about current arts and arts education activities, and offer my students plenty of opportunities on and off of the stage to help them gain a more comprehensive knowledge of the arts.

Tell us about the formation of the Colorado Alliance of Arts Education.

The Colorado Alliance of Arts Education was created to address the need to improve arts opportunities in both public and private schools in Colorado. The idea behind the organization’s formation was to join forces with other arts education efforts and work together. By doing so, we share resources with other organizations and educators and get more done. In this day and age, there is an extreme benefit for all art organizations to work together. Today, we in the arts education field have a great deal at stake and a great deal in common. We need to support one another for the benefit of all kids in Colorado.

How is the Colorado Alliance for Arts Education advancing arts as a part of a comprehensive education?

Currently, the Colorado Alliance of Arts Education is in the process of developing a plan to be effective in this area. The organization is requesting data from Colorado Creative Industries regarding the current level of engagement and access to the arts for all students in Colorado. Once that data has been received and interpreted, the Alliance will create a strategic plan designed to ensure that all students have the opportunity to engage in the arts while in school. What interests me most about this effort is the need to eliminate the inequality that currently exists in the area of arts opportunities for our young people.

You are the Colorado State Captain for Americans for the Arts (AFTA). Can you please elaborate on your role as the state captain?

As a regular attendee at Americans for the Arts’ Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., I was asked to take on this role. I find the annual advocacy day invigorating because of the wide access the day provides to political figures from across the nation. In addition, the event provides attendees with incredible high-level training on public policy related to the arts. As a teacher I find this annual event a must. Each year when I return, I am filled with additional knowledge from the firsthand experience of talking to members of Congress. The Thespians organization supports the Advocacy Day attendance for  two high school students. I am always thrilled to see these young adults stepping up and talking to elected officials about what their high school arts experience has meant to them.

You attended AFTA’s Arts Advocacy Day in April. What were some highlights of that event?

My personal highlight from AFTA’s Arts Advocacy Day was the Nancy Hanks Lecture on April 26 at the Kennedy Center. This year Yo-Yo Ma was the presenter, and hearing him share his love for music and relating how it inspired him to start his charity organization was most inspirational. His charity ensures music instruction to economically disadvantaged schools.  Please click on this link to see the complete presentation.

While at AFTA’s Arts Advocacy Day, did you receive positive feedback regarding support for the arts from Colorado’s members of Congress and/or their staff members?

Today the political landscape is very polarized by party affiliation, which is unfortunate for both the arts advocates and voters. As a result, attendees at AFTA’s Arts Advocacy Day had an extremely positive reception from some elected officials, while others refused to meet with us. When art is weighed by only a political dollar value, we hurt ourselves and our culture. My hope is that one day the arts can be valued for arts sake–a priceless experience for all.

Unfortunately, there are some elected officials that do not support the arts. What strategies do you suggest for having effective conversations about the importance of the arts with these individuals?

Some elected officials do not support the arts, but effective conversations about supporting the arts can still occur. A few key strategies for discussing the arts with these individuals is to relate to them, understand where they are coming from, and know their passion. For example, a sports fan recognizes may recognize that it was artist who designed the tee shirt they love to wear to the game. They also understand and love the beautiful architecture of the sports arenas they sit in and appreciate the work and thought that it takes to design such a structure. Maybe they have family members involved in the arts, or a spouse that regularly attends the theatre. All of this is important information to know when learning how to relate and talk to what might be a “non-supporter” of the arts, and you might be surprised that down deep, they are or can be a supporter.

Portland’s New Arts Education and Access Fund Presented at Arts Advocacy Day

This year, Arts for Colorado’s Arts Advocacy Day featured a presentation on Portland’s Arts Education and Access Fund by Liz Fuller, a leader in the Creative Advocacy Network. The Network played a central role in passing the city’s new income tax that supports arts education in the schools. Fuller’s talk focused on the strategies used for gaining public and elected-official support for this measure.

Portland’s landmark $35 per-taxpayer income tax will fund the restoration of arts teachers to every local elementary school and fund the arts citywide. The measure will raise a total of $12.2 million annually, with approximately 69% of the funds going to arts teachers and arts education coordination. The remaining 31% of the funds will be allocated to nonprofit arts organizations. The Arts Education and Access Fund was years in the making and is the first local public fund to make targeted investments in both K-12 arts education and community-based arts organizations through a voter-approved income tax.

If you were unable to attend AFC’s Arts Advocacy Day, please click here to view Fuller’s presentation.