On a stage in Washington last night, Alec Baldwin briefly un-retired from public life to introduce Maureen Dowd, who proceeded to deliver a lecture on “the arts” in “America.” This grim scenario wasn’t culled from an SNL bin; it was a real-live keynote commissioned by Americans for the Arts, the crowning moment of the arts advocacy group’s annual “Arts Advocacy Day.” Though a reasonable person might be forgiven for their discombobulation at this lineup, in fairness, Arts Advocacy Day ranks pretty high in the non-loathsome lobbying event category. It’s a day when “grassroots advocates” head to Washington “to meet with their members of Congress in support of issues like arts education policy, the charitable tax deduction, and funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.” Why not!
Yesterday’s daytime events mostly consisted of panels oriented towards answering various practical matters (“Arts in Health,” “Cultural Exchanges and National Service,” “IRA Rollover and Gifts of Property,” “Artists, Entrepreneurs, and Small Business,” “‘White Spaces’ and Net Neutrality”); today was given over to lobbying meetings with politicians. Banal as these activities may seem, organizations like Americans for the Arts do play a fairly important role in protecting arts-related federal funding, including that of the National Endowment for the Arts, an entity under perpetual risk of budget cuts or defunding at the hands of crusading politicians.
Still unclear what Alec Baldwin (“actor and arts advocate”) and Maureen Dowd (wholesale purveyor of column-inch dreck) have to do with any of that, though.
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