Dance Advocacy: Three Ways You Can Get Started Right Now

Idea #1: Public Performance
The goal: Create visibility for your community, raise awareness about the impact of the arts, or ask people to take a specific action.
The action: Organize as large a group of people as you can — anywhere from ten to a hundred. Create a short, easy-to-learn phrase that can be repeated. Create a short list of rules that can vary the performance of the phrase — change of facing, change of speed, etc. Participants learn the phrase in advance. (Maybe through a YouTube video? Or perhaps the phrase is pedestrian and can be written down and circulated via email.) Participants arrive at an appointed place and time. Select a high-visibility location, like outside a busy office building at lunchtime. Upon arrival, participants begin moving together, continue for a set amount of time, and disperse.
The message (several options):

  • The arts make your life better every day. The message is intrinsic to the action.
  • Raise awareness about impact. Create a flyer, postcard or even business card with the information you want your community to have, and hand it out to the watching crowd. Dance/USA created an excellent economic impact flyer. Download it here.
  • Ask for action: Make your argument via a flyer, and then ask for an action. For instance, when Dance/USA created its economic impact flyer, it included a request that people call their elected officials and ask that arts money be restored to the economic stimulus package.

Idea #2: Directed Action
The goal: Generate 2,000 calls to your mayor or county council asking that funding for arts in the schools be approved.
The message: Arts education benefits the community, enriches education, drives economic development, and makes your town a better place to live.
The action: Create a simple website that makes your argument, and asks people to call a particular elected official to request full funding for arts in the schools. Duplicate it on a Facebook group. Amass a core group of volunteers to reference the site on their Facebook status, post it to their feeds, and invite their friends to join the group. Post flyers directing community members to the site. Send emails to your entire address book, and the address books of as many supporters as possible, asking people to take action. Find a way to track calls made — either through asking callers to let you know or by programming the site to track the calls. Update the site with progress toward your goal. Send progress reports to participants. On the night of the vote, hold a party for everyone who helped.

Idea #3: A Coming-Out Campaign
The goal: Create a personal connection to the arts for the people you know.
The action: This action is a commitment to yourself. Commit to making sure everyone you interact with — your family, your colleagues at your day job, the people whose businesses you patronize — knows that the arts are important to you. Make a list and check off the conversations as they happen.
The message:  Which message you convey depends on whom you are talking to.

  • Business owners might need to know that cuts in arts funding mean that you will reduce spending at their business.
  • Your neighbors might need to know that you work with kids, and the arts are intrinsic to their education.
  • Your colleagues might need to know why your artistic career is so important that you work a day job to support it. Or they might need to know more about why and how dance can enhance their lives.

Jen Abrams is a choreographer, arts administrator, and 11-year member of WOW Café Theater, a collectively run all-women and -trans theater space in New York. Her work has been produced at LaMama, Dixon Place, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, DancenOw, and HERE. She is the former managing director of Risa Jaroslow & Dancers, Poetry in the Branches coordinator at Poets House, and administrative manager of Guild Complex. She is currently devoted to launching OurGoods, an online barter network for artists. OurGoods offers an environment in which artists can get their work done regardless of the economic climate. We posit an alternative to the competitive funding model — on OurGoods, the more resources each artist gets, the more resources are available for all participants.

Return to From the Green Room throughout this week for more tips and advice on advocacy from Jen Abrams.


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