By Clara Keane | April, 5 2018 | Advocacy Events


The AATA is a proud National Partner of Americans for the Arts’ (AftA) Arts Advocacy Day (AAD), which gathered over 650 advocates from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, who attended more than 300 meetings with legislators and staff.  AAD provides a chance each year to stand in solidarity with over 85 national arts organizations to support and defend the arts in America.  Even as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) again faces proposed elimination for FY 2019, bipartisan support for the arts in Congress and among the American public is stronger than ever!

Arts Advocacy Day, American Art Therapy Association

Virginia arts advocates after meeting with a staff person of Senator Kaine

Last year, when the Administration proposed complete elimination for FY 2018 of both the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), along with other cultural agencies, advocates for the arts lifted a united voice in defense of the arts.  For AftA’s AAD in 2017, 700 advocates congregated at the Capitol and attended more than 400 face-to-face meetings with Congressional leaders and staff, achieving record attendance for AAD.  Read about AATA’s involvement in Arts Advocacy Day in 2017.

Our collective effort paid off!  On March 23, 2018, the President signed the much-delayed Omnibus appropriations bill, finalizing funding for FY 2018.  The NEA and NEH received $152.8 million each, a $3 million increase from FY 2017.  This funding increase will help support Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network, a collaboration between the NEA and the Department of Defense which provides creative arts therapies (CATs), including art therapy, services for military personnel and veterans.

This year, AAD appropriately coincided with Creative Arts Therapies Week 2018 (March 11-17).  The AATA was thrilled to join National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations (NCCATA) Colleagues, the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), and the North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) as National Partners with AftA and collaborators for this important series of advocacy events that culminated in the Capitol Hill visits on March 13th.

Read below for a recap of the year-long work and collaboration that leads up to AAD, and a recap of the training and advocacy day as well as ways you can be an advocate for the arts even if you can’t attend AAD in person.

Leading up to Arts Advocacy Day 2018


Arts Advocacy Day, American Art Therapy Association

Judy Simpson and Dr. Betts provide remarks at Congressional Arts Caucus Briefing

Year round planning and research into legislative priorities goes into AAD every year.  AftA’s Legislative Planning Committee meets in the months leading up to AAD to discuss legislative priorities and contribute to the Congressional Arts Handbook, a resource compiled to help advocates make their case and provide congressional staff a comprehensive look at the landscape and priorities of the arts in America.  The 2018 Handbook offers facts and figures, support letters from National Partners, arts support records of Congressmen, and issue briefs on various legislative priorities for the arts community, including: education policy, tax policy, technology, transportation, cultural exchange, visa processing for guest artists, arts in health and the military, the CREATE Act, and funding for NEA and NEH, museum and library services, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This year the AATA took an active role in the Legislative Planning Committee, contributing content in the issue briefs “Arts in Health” and “Arts and the Military: Improving the Health of Active Military Through the Arts.”  Immediate Past-President Donna Betts, PhD ATR-BC and AMTA Director of Government Relations Judy Simpson MT-BC presented on these two issues at the briefing for the Congressional Arts Caucus staff on March 8th and fielded questions about the creative arts therapies to help congressional staff better understand the issues in preparation for meetings with constituents.

The arts continue to receive bipartisan support not only because the arts are the cultural foundation of America but also because the arts drive the economy.  On March 6, 2018, new data was released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the NEA with compelling findings: the arts contribute $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy (4.2% GDP) (more than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing), employ 4.9 million workers across the country with earnings of more than $370 billion, and provide a positive trade balance (exported $20 billion more than imported in 2015).

Day 1: Advocacy Training

Dr. Betts, Ashley Martinez, and Judy Simpson.


Dr. Betts and Judy Simpson, joined by drama therapist Ashley Martinez, RDT, LCAT, led the training sessions on the Arts and Health and Arts in the Military issue briefs. The half-hour sessions went over specific legislative asks and educated advocates on the CATs professions and arts in health care.

The day prior to Arts Advocacy day, AftA leads a training day, in which advocates attend training sessions on lobbying basics, meet up with other advocates in their states, and attend briefings and training sessions on the contents of the Congressional Arts Handbook.

Following the training sessions, attendees gathered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 31st Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy.  This year’s event featured a performance of the Washington Performing Arts Men, Women & Children of the Gospel Choirs and a conversation between the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Founding Director Lonnie G. Bunch III and Board Member Richard D. Parsons, moderated by the Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden.  Watch the lecture here.

Jordan Potash, PhD, ATR-BC, REAT, LPAT (MD), LCAT (NY) takes selfie with art therapists and students: Bo Jensen Krzyminski, Dr. Betts, Erica Wang, Roselynn Vanderpool, ATR-BC, LCPAT, LCPC, and Alby Gyimah-Boadi.

Day 2: Capitol Hill Meetings

Arts Advocacy Day, American Art Therapy Association

Full page ads in Roll Call, The Hill and Politico showed economic data on how the arts support America on March 13, Arts Advocacy Day 2018


Equipped with advocacy training and talking points and ready to share their arts stories, attendees gathered for some words of inspiration at the Congressional Arts Kick Off, which took place in the Kennedy Caucus room of the Russell Senate Office Building early on March 13th.  Speakers at the Kick Off included (click links to view their remarks):

  • Gillian Jacobs, actress and director known best for her work on Netflix’s Love and NBC’s Community
  • U.S. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
  • U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • Tom Udall (D-NM), Ranking Member on the U.S. Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
  • Leonard Lance (R-NJ), co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus
  • Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
  • Jon Parrish Peede, senior deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts
  • Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts
  • Carla Dirlikov Canales, mezzo-soprano
Arts Advocacy Day, American Art Therapy Association

Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts speaks at Congressional Arts Kick Off

From 10:00am to 5:00pm, arts advocates attended more than 300 in-person meetings in Capitol Hill. AATA members and staff attended meetings with Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. legislators and staff.  Additionally, advocates across the country sent more than 194,300 #SAVEtheNEA campaign emails to Congress.  Following a long day of office meetings, AATA arts advocates were joined by local AATA members and friends of the profession for a reception to debrief and network.

AAD 2018 was a success!  AftA reports that this year, 38 percent of U.S. Representatives have signed the “Dear Colleague” letter in support of federal arts funding, marking a record number of signatures for the fifth consecutive year.  “The letter is delivered to the Appropriations Committee and is a key marker and signal of congressional support, as appropriators begin drafting legislation later this spring,” according to AftA.  Visit AftA’s 2018 Arts Advocacy Wrap-Up Page for more information.

Arts Advocacy Day, American Art Therapy Association

We are optimistic that continued Congressional bipartisan support of the arts and continued advocacy by supporters of the arts will again defeat the proposed elimination of the NEA for FY 2019.  Continue advocating with us.  Use #ArtsAdvocacy and #SAVEtheNEA on social media and join AftA’s Arts Action Fund for free to receive breaking news and legislative alerts.