Orchestras and Congress speak up for arts policy

March 31, 2017

SHIFT festival brings orchestras to nation's capital

The long-anticipated SHIFT festival of American orchestras is taking place this week in Washington, D.C., celebrating the vitality, identity, and extraordinary artistry of orchestras and chamber orchestras. Washington Performing Arts and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts are hosting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Boulder Philharmonic, The Knights, and the North Carolina Symphony in an immersive festival experience including full-orchestra performances in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and community events throughout the city. The festival also included a symposium that featured League President and CEO Jesse Rosen at the Library of Congress.

The participating orchestras have been warmly welcomed by members of Congress throughout the week, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. David Price (D-NC), and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). Several musicians have also been meeting -- and sometimes performing for -- their members of Congress, sharing their experiences as musicians, and describing the importance of the policies that their elected officials contemplate in D.C.

Photographed: North Carolina Symphony Music Director Grant Llewellyn, Violinist Jacqueline Saed-Wolborsky, Violist Samuel Gold, Cellist Nathaniel Yaffe, and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)

Orchestras and Congress speak up for NEA funding

As Congress simultaneously takes up two years of spending decisions, orchestras are weighing in to urge ongoing support for the National Endowment for the Arts. The stop-gap agreement for current Fiscal Year 2017 government spending expires on April 28. While this week President Trump recommended total cuts of $18 billion in FY17 non-defense spending, including a proposed $15 million reduction for the NEA, leaders in Congress say the overall proposal comes too late in their ongoing budget talks. Final FY17 decisions are expected to be wrapped up after Congress returns from a recess in late April. Attention will then turn to FY18 spending levels. Today, 154 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a bipartisan Congressional letter to appropriators in support of FY18 NEA funding. Orchestra stakeholders continue to partner with other arts advocates to describe the impact of NEA grants in communities nationwide through direct communication to Congress and the following recent op-eds:

Tax talks heat up

On March 24, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) was quoted as saying, "We want to move forward this spring in the House and to be ready to deliver tax reform in 2017." Orchestras have joined the broader nonprofit sector in asking Congress to ensure that comprehensive tax reform will expand incentives for charitable giving and support nonprofit services to communities. On March 17, Ways and Means Committee Members Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and John Lewis (D-GA) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 34, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the charitable deduction that was enacted into the federal tax code in 1917. The resolution reinforces that "individual contributions benefit the arts, humanities, religious institutions, education, human services, the environment, health programs, and many other sectors" and that "philanthropy serves as a dynamic force to direct private resources toward addressing the difficult issues and evolving needs of society over a period of time, beyond a single act of good will." As Congress continues to work on the details of a tax reform proposal, check out our tips for how to take action.

Artist visa update: League leads policy statement and guidance

The League and a growing number of national arts organizations have signed an arts statement in response to the President's March immigration executive order. The statement urges policy leaders to retain access to artist visas and support opportunities for worldwide cultural exchange during ongoing consideration of new immigration policies. The White House has revoked its initial executive order that was announced in late January and issued a new executive order that would have the effect of imposing new limits on travel to the United States, beginning on March 16, for certain foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. As judicial action in response to the order continues, and as the Administration considers next steps, you can find up-to-date information on Artists from Abroad, a website that the League manages and which provides guidance for engaging foreign guest artists for performances in the U.S.

Arts education grants opportunity at U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education's Assistance for Arts Education Program is inviting applications for new FY17 awards for Professional Development for Arts Educators (PDAE). The deadline to submit a notice of intent to apply (recommended but not required) is April 27, 2017, with an official application deadline of May 30, 2017. The PDAE program is a highly competitive program that will support 20 to 25 new awards for professional development programs for kindergarten through grade 12 arts educators and other instructional staff for students in K-12 in which 50 percent or more of the students are from low-income families. For complete information, please view the PDAE grant guidelines online. Ultimate funding for grant awards is contingent on Congress finalizing as-yet-unfinished FY17 spending levels across the federal government. You can weigh in with Congress to ask for continued support for this program through the League's Arts Education Funding policy campaign.