The arts are of prime importance at Montclair State and during the week of March 20th students joined advocates from around the country to raise their voices in solidarity for arts programming and education with events that stretched from New Jersey to the halls of Congress in Washington DC.
National Arts Advocacy Day, which is held annually to remind legislators of the importance of arts funding, is an opportunity to fight back against the proposed elimination of The National Endowment for the Arts which provides $150 million in annual federal funds to arts programs across the country.
Montclair State students Tinajah Davis and Christine Lazcano, in partnership with ArtPride New Jersey, traveled to Capitol Hill to lobby lawmakers to save NEA arts funding from being expunged.
“It is so important that artists and lovers of the arts learn to articulate how vital national funding and recognition is to the creative community and society at large," says National Music Council Director, and Montclair State Professor, Dr. David Sanders. "We need arts education in our schools to create well rounded students – there is overwhelming evidence that studying music and the arts in school helps kids learn better, stay in school longer, feel more part of a community, and think more creatively. Arts and entertainment are one of our nation’s biggest exports, and legislators need to understand how much the arts contribute to our economy and how vital it is to protect the rights of creators. One dollar of government investment in the arts often multiplies twenty-fold by creating private sector and local support that impacts an entire community. “
It was not just at the national seat of power that students contributed. On the campus of Montclair State University, in the lobby of Kasser Theater, student advocates raised campus awareness for the performing arts. They were called “Peak Ambassadors,” and presented the first Arts Advocacy Week in conjunction with National Arts Advocacy Day. It was a chance for the campus community to support our diverse array of artists; to learn more about arts advocacy, and to attend a performance or arts event on campus - all programming was free to undergraduates.
At the Make Your Mark for the Arts event on Tuesday, March 21st, students signed and decorated a banner to show they support the many arts programs that are part of campus life. Three Student Government Association arts groups co-sponsored this event (MSU Acapella, MSU Art Society, MSU Complexions Band Dance Team) as well as the Office of Arts and Cultural Programming. Ambassadors provided participants fact-sheets on the nation-wide impact of the NEA and two national petitions that students could sign (sponsored by Americans for the Arts) in support of NEA funding.
"The arts at MSU have made me more aware, open, and connected to the world we are living in today,” says Peak Ambassador Waverley Leung (Sophomore and Dance Major). “College is a time where we are experimenting and finding ourselves, and MSU provides numerous opportunities to be involved with the arts."
The hanging banner with hand prints and signatures from those who contributed during Arts Advocacy Week remains on display in the lobby of the Kasser Theater.