Each year, arts advocates from across Indiana travel to the State Capitol in Indianapolis to participate in “Arts Day at the Statehouse,” presented by the Indiana Coalition for the Arts. Music for All is a proud member of the vibrant arts community in the state, and I was excited to represent Music for All and the arts in Indiana last month at Arts Day. I joined close to 50 other artists, teachers and arts administrators in an advocacy training session, a community arts project and most importantly, meeting with legislators to demonstrate our support for the arts in Indiana.
Because Music for All’s pinnacle programs are located in Indiana, MFA has an incredible impact on Indiana’s young people as well as the state and local tax revenue generated from tourism during MFA events. MFA also receives general operating support from the Indiana Arts Commission, partly funded by the Indiana State Legislature. I had the great fortune of sharing with legislators the important work that Music for All and other arts organizations across the state are doing: improving the quality of life, providing economic impact, and providing impactful arts education for Hoosier youth.
After a brief training session where we learned how simple it is to speak to your elected officials, we headed to the Statehouse to “storm the floor.” It was a very busy day at the Statehouse, as many important pieces of legislation were in discussion, but we were still able to meet with many elected officials. In addition to talking points from Music for All, the Indiana Coalition for the Arts also provided us with brief items to discuss with legislators, which included thanking legislators for increased funding for the Indiana Arts Commission and promoting a bill supporting ensemble music education in middle and secondary schools.
Right away, I met with Representative Eric Koch, who is an active supporter of the arts in his South Central Indiana district. While nervously ensuring that I covered all of my talking points, we had a great conversation about Rep. Koch’s passion for the arts. I also had the pleasure of meeting Senator Jean Breaux, who represents my home district in Indianapolis. “The arts have always been an important part of my life,” explained Sen. Breaux. She also represents many underserved families in Indianapolis, including some who participate in MFA’s Indianapolis Public Schools outreach programs. Sen. Breaux been an important advocate for the arts in the State Senate, and it was inspiring to speak firsthand with a legislator with so much passion for the arts.
Indiana State Senator Timothy Lanane and MFA Advocacy Coordinator Seth Williams
(Photo courtesy of Randy Orr, Indiana Coaltion for the Arts)
Later in the afternoon, I met with Senate Minority Leader Timothy Lanane, who represents East Central Indiana, including the home of the MFA Summer Symposium – Ball State University. I spoke with Sen. Lanane about the Summer Symposium and MFA’s commitment to engaging the East Central Indiana community.
Because of the busy day in the Statehouse and the large number of visitors, I was not able to meet with as many legislators as I had hoped. Instead, we had the opportunity to meet other artists, teachers and administrators from all over the state and participate in a community art project entitled Have a HeART, developed by Hoosier artist Joe LaMantia. The project helped spread a message throughout the Statehouse of passion and collaboration through the arts.
The 2014 Arts Day at the Statehouse was a simple yet effective way to meet with legislators and display the impact of the arts, including music education, on Hoosiers. You too can contact your federal, state and local elected officials and spread the message of music education’s impact on students across the U.S. The Indiana Coalition has many resources specific to Indiana elected officials here. You can also visit our partners at SupportMusic.com, including NAMM and the National Association for Music Education, for more national resources. Whether writing an email or letter, calling your representative’s office or visiting them in person, advocating for the arts is integral to ensuring public support for the arts, including music education in our nation’s schools.
Seth Williams is the Advocacy Coordinator at Music for All. Seth is no stranger to Music for All and Bands of America – first as a participant and as an intern in Development and Participant Relations. He is a graduate of Butler University and previously worked in the Broadway theatre industry in New York. A proud alumnus of “The Centerville Jazz Band,” Seth is likely the biggest band nerd he knows.