The Hippo


Jun 2, 2020








Become an advocate

Arts campaigns
Educating advocates through ArtsVote New Hampshire

By Kelly Sennott

If you want to see a change in how we fund the arts, locally or nationally, now’s the time for action. The plan? Ask the presidential candidates for support.
A handful of experts helped about 50 locals — artists, arts administrators, arts educators, board members of arts institutions, etc. — become arts advocates last week at ArtsVote New Hampshire Advocacy Training. The event, held at the Currier Museum of Art, was led by Nina Ozlu Tunceli, executive director for the Americans for the Arts Action Fund, and it marked the beginning of the organization’s campaign, ArtsVote2016, which aims to advance the role of arts and arts education in the 2016 presidential campaign. 
To do this, the D.C.-based organization is zeroing in on Iowa (ArtsVote Iowa) and New Hampshire (ArtsVote New Hampshire).
“The goal for the [ArtsVote New Hampshire] campaign is to engage presidential candidates as well as congressional candidates on the importance of arts and arts education in America,” Tunceli said via phone last week. “It’s a special opportunity for artists and arts advocates in New Hampshire to take a grassroots leadership role in a national campaign that will not only affect citizens in New Hampshire, but also the rest of the country.”
The July 21 event ran long because of interest and featured numerous local speakers, including Tim Sink from the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce and Sarah Stewart from b-fresh consulting, who will be the New Hampshire face of the ArtsVote New Hampshire campaign. She lives in Manchester and has managed or been involved with numerous presidential campaigns, including John McCain’s, Tim Pawlenty’s and Jon Huntsman’s. She sits on the board of New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts.
The foremost tool the participants received, Stewart said, was information on where the candidates stand and fact sheets about the importance of arts in the state and national economies. For example, in New Hampshire there are 3,505 arts-related businesses that employ 10,346 people. Nationally, the arts and culture sector makes up 4.3 percent of our GDP, more than construction or transportation and warehousing; there’s more information at
“We want our advocates to have a little research before they go to talk with Chris Christie at a town hall meeting,” Stewart said. “But the whole approach is to remain positive and provide a meaningful conversation with the candidates — not to push the candidate in the corner on the issue, but to have a dialogue with them in a relatable way.”
The event was the first of what will be many meetings and conference calls among advocates throughout the primary season. Tunceli said the organization has taken different approaches in the past; for the 2008 election, an individual staff member set up a New Hampshire office and tried to engage candidates at various forums.
“Four years ago, we did an event at the Capitol Center for the Arts where we invited candidates to come and speak at a forum and talk about their positions on the arts,” Tunceli said. “We learned a lot from those two ways of doing it. There were pluses and minuses in each one of those cases.”
She thinks the current game plan is the most strategic and could be the most effective. 
“When you only have one person being your eyes and ears, you can only get so far,” Tunceli said.
Stewart agreed.
“It’s clear to me that, to be impactful during a presidential primary, you need to be authentic and connect with local, real people. That’s the only way you can make this work. Some groups drop lots of money on TV ads and fanfare the last month of the presidential primary with the hope of making an impact, but this is a very different approach,” Stewart said. “It a shoestring budget with lots of voices. … When a candidate comes to a library to speak  — or a local town hall or local opera house — there are real people who live in that town who will be there and share why, on a local level, it’s important to invest in the arts.”
Stewart said she hopes this energy will move, not just through the primary season, but after it as well.
“I’m really excited [Americans for the Arts are] investing their time and resources in New Hampshire,” Stewart said. “When they conclude this very specific project in 2016, they’re leaving us with a database and relationships that we’ll be able to build. … What we’ve seen in the past, in New Hampshire and in other states —  people advocate for the arts every two years during the budget decisions. What we’d like to do is create an advocacy organization that spans all political parties, and geographically covers all of the state. … It can be something that’s 
As seen in the July 30th 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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