A petition addressed to all presidential campaigns, May 2004
We the undersigned artists and arts organization representatives come from all parts of the United States and reflect the heritage cultures of every corner of the globe. Our fundamental values are freedom of expression, diversity, equity, and a belief in art and culture as a means of building mutual trust and understanding, which is our best guarantee of peace and security.
We hereby call on all parties to the presidential election of 2004 to adopt the following principles: our nations diversity is its renewable energy source; when kindled, it lights a beacon of freedom that illuminates the world. It is clearly in our national interest to end the cultural isolationism that has been policy for two decades, replacing it with a policy that secures the role of the not-for-profit arts in international exchange grounded in a domestic cultural policy that values our own national diversity. Our nations cultural policy goals should include broadening public participation, telling the stories the commercial cultural industries dont tell, creating understanding among and between different peoples, and supporting the efforts of communities (and nations) to solve their problems in ways that benefit humankind.
We call on all candidates for President of the United States to support the following cultural policy positions.
SUPPORT ARTISTIC CREATION AND PRESENTATION. At the federal level, we need full funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities at $293 million each, the equivalent of $1 per capita. NEA and NEH grants should reflect the diversity of our nation, channeling much-needed resources to artists and organizations in both rural and urban communities, rooted in the full range of heritage cultures, and experimenting with a multiplicity of approaches to creative expression, dissemination, and community cultural development.
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT VOICES IN MEDIA. To balance the omissions and biases of the commercial marketplace, there should be full federal funding of at least an aggregate $30 million for public broadcasting-related initiatives through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting such as the Independent Television Service and the Minority Public Broadcasting Consortia, those helping to create and broadcast material that serves diverse local and national interests, that give voice to diverse artists and communities, both urban and rural.
SUPPORT THE MEANS TO ACTIVE CULTURAL PARTICIPATION FOR THE ENTIRE CITIZENRY. Unincorporated and amateur organizations make enormous contributions to our countrys cultural richness. Even a modest level of expenditure $200 million per annum through education, recreation, and arts agencies in support of the means to participate can make an huge difference. National policy should support publicly accessible libraries, classes, rehearsal and performance spaces, studio spaces, equipment, and material and expert assistance needed to implement the universal right to participate in the cultural life of the community.
SUPPORT DISTRIBUTION MECHANISMS FOR INDEPENDENT VOICES AND VISIONS IN THE ARTS. Even in the age of the Internet, control of distribution systems for music, film, theater, and other art works make it difficult for localized, independent, and minority cultural expressions to reach their intended audiences, those who are hungry for stories that resonate with their own experience, or who wish to learn more about their neighbors. National policy should ensure that museums and other public cultural institutions reflect the full range of our nations cultural diversity, honoring all cultural heritages. National policy should support non-commercial distribution mechanisms, independent of the massive commercial cultural industries, for publications, moving image media, performing arts, and visual arts work.
CREATE PUBLIC SERVICE EMPLOYMENT FOR COMMUNITY CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT. Cuts in state and municipal spending for cities, schools, parks, libraries, and arts organizations weaken social cohesion, endangering future generations rather than inviting them into cultural participation as a right of citizenship. Our nation needs a new federal initiative to underwrite public service jobs in cultural development, staffing local not-for-profit cultural institutions with citizens who are eager to be of community service. Funding should begin at $300 million per annum through the Department of Labor and/or other appropriate agencies, to return public service arts employment to the current-day equivalent of its pre-1980 level of $200 million federal dollars.
RESTORE ARTS CURRICULA TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Increasingly, the study of music, dance, theater, visual arts and other forms of creative endeavor are considered expendable by hard-pressed public school decision-makers. Yet the arts enhance quality of life, engendering civic culture and enabling people to communicate across divides; they improve academic performance by fortifying cognitive skills, increasing self-esteem, improving attendance, and rescuing at-risk youth; and they enable us to tell the stories that define us, even to heal our hearts. National policy should support the return of arts education to the curriculum as an integrated, essential component of education for citizenship.
RESTORE THE KEY U.S. ROLE IN INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL EXCHANGE. Animosity toward the United States is fed by lack of knowledge of the depth and diversity of our cultures. The free exchange of stories, songs, images, and other artistic expressions is needed to foster understanding, respect, and collaboration with other nations. National cultural policy should support full participation in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other international cultural policy and development agencies. National policy should support a depth and breadth of cultural exchange that enables our artists to provide a full-spectrum portrait of our diverse nation: there should be support to send our artists and groups abroad, and visiting artists from other nations should be welcomed as cultural ambassadors, without inappropriate barriers.
COMMIT TO SEEK INNOVATIVE FINANCING TO BRING U.S. EXPENDITURE FOR CREATIVITY AND CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT TO REALISTIC LEVELS. If existing tax revenues are deemed insufficient to support implementation of an adequate national cultural policy encompassing these commitments, federal policy should call for alternate sources of revenue, such as a tax on advertising to support live performance or a tax on commercial media to support independent media.
In this new era of global communication, issues pertaining to culture will increasingly play a leading role in our geopolitical discourse, both at home and abroad. The United States Congress has recently allocated an additional $25 billion to Iraq. If enacted, the measures described above would cost a tiny fraction of that amount and make an enormous difference at home and abroad. We, the undersigned, therefore call on all candidates for the U.S. presidency in 2004 to endorse the foregoing principles and commitments.
This platform was drafted by veteran cultural activists Dudley Cocke (Roadside Theater/Appalshop), Dee Davis (Center for Rural Strategies), and Arlene Goldbard (writer and cultural theorist), after they attended the Community Arts Network National Gathering, May 26-28, 2004, in Asheville, NC. It is being offered for additional signatures by the following group of individual and organizational signatories:
- Caron Atlas, Brooklyn, NY
- Judith F. Baca, Venice, CA
- Tom Borrup, Minneapolis, MN
- Linda Frye Burnham, Saxapahaw, NC
- Dudley Cocke, Whitesburg, KY
- Jan Cohen-Cruz, New York, NY
- Dee Davis, Whitesburg, KY
- Steven Durland, Saxapahaw, NC
- Arlene Goldbard, Richmond, CA
- Bob Leonard, Blacksburg, VA
- John Malpede, Los Angeles, CA
- Robbie McCauley, Performance Artist, Boston, MA
- Randy Martin, New York, NY
- Meena Natarajan, Minneapolis, MN
- Lorie Novak, New York, NY
- Roadside Theatre, Whitesburg, KY
- Rosalba Rolon, New York, NY
- Diana Taylor, New York, NY
- MK Wegmann, New Orleans, LA