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How to Support the Arts During the Trump Administration

If you’re concerned about the state of arts funding and support under the new incoming administration, then we have some suggestions of what you can do.

Annette Lemieux, "Left Right Left Right" (1995), 30 photolithographs and 30 pine poles, dimensions variable (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Print Committee; courtesy the Whitney Museum of American Art)
Annette Lemieux, “Left Right Left Right” (1995), 30 photolithographs and 30 pine poles, dimensions variable (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Print Committee; courtesy the Whitney Museum of American Art)

If you’re freaked out about how the incoming Trump administration might affect arts and culture — and everything else — in the coming years, you’re in good company. Not a single well-known visual artist endorsed Donald Trump for president during his campaign, and in the two weeks since he was elected, the art world has overwhelmingly responded with shock and grief. The question, now, is where to go from here

Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts, which has worked to advance the arts and arts education  in the United States since 1960, has some ideas. “The arts have always been used as a healing force, and we have seen the power of art to affect people’s thinking,” Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, told Hyperallergic. Picasso’s “Guernica” and Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial, he suggests, are examples of political art that help foster empathy and inspire political action. “We just need to make sure the people who need to be affected by art are seeing art — and one way to do this is for artists to engage with their elected officials,” Lynch says. “A lot of people think that legislators come in with knowledge about every subject, but they’re actually very reliant on constituents helping them to shape ideas and policies.” 

Calling legislators is usually more effective than emailing them. Here’s a widely shared document with instructions on who to call and ideas for what to say. “Let the elected leader know who you are, share your work, ask for a meeting,” Lynch suggests. “Become part of the process. That’s how other industries do it. Once that bridge is made, artists and arts organizations can become advisors; constituents can call upon elected leaders to help them think through problems.”

In addition to talking to legislators and using art to foster protest and healing, it’s worth checking out arts organizations that might need more help than ever in the coming years.  Herewith, an incomplete list of local and national arts nonprofits, coalitions, museums, and alliances — particularly those geared towards supporting communities most threatened by bigotry — seeking volunteers with arts-related skills, and/or donations of supplies and money.

Arab American National Museum
Located in Dearborn, Michigan, the Arab American National Museum is the first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history and culture. The AANM is an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and a founding member of the Immigration and Civil Rights Network of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. It’s currently seeking volunteers. Donate here.

National Association of Latino Arts and Culture
National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to promoting and developing the Latino arts field. Go here to donate or learn how to volunteer and advocate.

Arts Action Fund
The Arts Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) arts advocacy nonprofit organization affiliated with Americans for the Arts, has more than 300,000 citizen activist members. Its goal is to build a movement of 1 million arts advocates. Membership is free.  Go here to sign up and get involved with current action campaigns underway (such as a campaign for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts), find and contact your legislators, sign petitions, track arts-related legislation, and/or donate.

Prison Arts Coalition
48 states have prison arts programs that provide inmates with arts education, including instruction in creative writing, poetry, visual art, dance, drama, and music. Many prison art programs are taught by volunteers, professional artists, teaching artists, students, and professors. The Prison Arts Coalition is a national network for prison arts in the United States. Find your regional prison arts program on the PAC’s website to learn how to get involved.

National Coalition Against Censorship
The National Coalition Against Censorship is an alliance of more than 50 nonprofits, including literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups, that support First Amendment principles. Their work in the visual arts realm includes collaborating with artists, curators, and museum directors resisting art censorship. Go here to report censorship, donate, or join the NCAC.

Cool Culture
Cool Culture, a nonprofit organization, helps more than 50,000 income-eligible families access 90 of New York City’s famous cultural institutions for free, from the Museum of Modern Art to the Brooklyn Historical Society. More than 50% of children in New York City are from low-income families, which often means they can’t afford to access museums, zoos, or performing arts centers without the support of organizations like Cool Culture. Donate here.

Free Arts NYC
Free Arts NYC provides underserved children in the five boroughs with educational arts and mentoring programs. They operate with the help of thousands of volunteers and partners. Individuals, companies, students, professionals, and community-based organizations can learn more about volunteering and donating here.

WomenArts
Based in Berkeley, California, WomenArts is a nonprofit arts service organization dedicated to helping women artists get the resources they need to do creative work. They support women artists through art and social justice projects, fundraising, advocacy, and free online networking efforts. Go here to donate and learn how to use WomenArts’ wealth of resources.

Queer Cultural Center
Founded in 1993, the Queer Cultural Center (QCC) is a community-building organization that fosters the artistic, economic and cultural development of the Bay Area’s LGBT community. Since 1998, QCC has organized an annual month-long National Queer Arts Festival.

The Laundromat Project
The Laundromat Project brings culturally relevant and socially aware art, artists, and arts programming to laundromats and other everyday community spaces in New York City. Go here to get involved.

Native Arts and Cultures Foundation
This Native-led nonprofit works to preserve, revitalize, and promote the artistic practices of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities nationwide.  Go here to support the NACF.

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
Located in New York City and founded in 1987, The Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the first dedicated LGBTQ art museum in the world. It’s devoted to exhibiting and preserving LGBTQ art, and supporting the artists who create it. Get involved here.

nterior of the Leslie Lohman Museum Paul Thek Exhibition
Interior of the Leslie Lohman Museum Paul Thek Exhibition (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Design Studio for Social Intervention
The Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI) is an artistic research and development outfit that fuses design thinking and practice with social justice and activism to “improve civil society and everyday life.” Go here to help D4SI create Social Emergency Response Centers, which they envision as spaces where people could take refuge during a social emergency, like state-sanctioned violence.

Working Artists and the Greater Economy
Working Artists and the Greater Economy (WAGE) is a New York-based activist organization that aims to draw attention to and resolve economic inequalities in the art world — basically, to help artists avoid getting ripped off. It’s focused on “regulating the payment of artist fees by nonprofit art institutions and establishing a sustainable labor relation between artists and the institutions that contract our work.” You can join W.A.G.E.  here; donate here.

Alternate ROOTS
Alternate ROOTS is a group of artists, cultural organizers, and activists based in the Atlanta, Georgia. Through working with artists in the American South, it “supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in community, place, tradition or spirit,” and works “to dismantle all forms of oppression — everywhere.” It offers an evolving collection of arts and activism tools and funding resources for artists. Donate here.

Arts in Bushwick 
Arts in Bushwick is an all-volunteer organization based in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It runs events like Bushwick Open Studios and works toward creating an integrated and sustainable neighborhood through arts programming, creative  accessibility, and community organizing. Go here to get involved.

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