Arts Advocacy Day 2015 was this past week and two of McCarter's Marketing team members—Kathryn Rickman (Marketing Assistant) and Lauren Genta (Marketing and Special Events Intern)—traveled down to Washington, D.C. with other arts leaders and supporters from across the country to join in this annual event. They came back buzzing with excitement about everything they learned and couldn’t wait to share it with you all. Without further ado, here’s #AAD15: McCarter: So what exactly is AAD all about? Lauren Genta: In a nutshell, Arts Advocacy Day (AAD) is organized through American for the Arts, the Arts Action Fund and many national co-sponsoring organizations representing the civic, cultural and educational sectors. Together, they partner with state and local grassroots organizations from across the country to serve as delegates advocating for policy reform in the arts and culture sectors. aad 2015 mccarterMcC: What made you decide to participate in AAD? Kathryn Rickman: As a young professional pursuing a career in arts administration, I knew that my participation in Arts Advocacy Day would not only allow me to learn how to properly advocate for the arts, but also make an impact on how the arts are regarded in New Jersey.

LG: Attending Arts Advocacy Day has long been a dream of mine. I’m early in my career, but central to my personal mission as an artist and administrator is to create a world of equity and access to the arts and a holistic education. Understanding the issues, knowing what the current policy is, and how it can be reformed is the key to being an advocate, and Arts Advocacy Day provides that training and experience.

McC: Can you give us a play-by-play of each day’s activities?

KR: Besides trying to keep Lauren alive… LG: (laughs) I tend to accidentally walk into traffic or fall down. KR: All kidding aside, day one started bright and early (and with us highly caffeinated) in preparation for a packed day of advocate training.

LG: Given this was our first time at AAD, we attended “Novice Briefings” on policy and the current standing of the major bills we would be advocating for with our Congressional leaders on day two.

McC: What are a few of those major issues or bills?

- Support a budget of $155 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to preserve citizen access to the cultural, educational, and economic benefits of the arts, creativity, and innovation; - Retain the definition of core academic subjects, including the arts, in education reform; Strengthen equitable access to arts learning; Increase Arts in Education grant support at the U.S. Department of Education - Preserve tax incentives for charitable giving.

KR: After absorbing all this information, we participated in breakout groups like “Arts, Entrepreneurs, and Small Businesses.”

LG: These were quick but informative. Afterwards, State Captains harnessed their inner actor and role-played what a typical (and maybe even not so typical) meeting with our representative could look like, such as questions or concerns they may have. aad 2015 lg & kr mccarterKR: Shout out to our NJ State Captain, Ann Marie Miller, from Art Pride New Jersey!

LG: After a dinner break, we headed to The Kennedy Center for the Nancy Hanks lecture with Keynote speaker, and the renowned television Writer/Producer/Director and social activist, Norman Lear (All in the Family, Sanford and Son) KR: who was introduced by COMMON.

McC: Wow, that sounds like a great evening! LG: It really was! I was geeking out hardcore and could seriously go on about that night alone for an hour. KR: Then we headed back to the hotel because we had to be up at the crack of dawn for day two. It was honestly a blur. LG: All I remember was it still being dark out and us getting coffee downstairs still in our pajamas.

KR: We got ready and jumped on the metro (the Red line is the wooooorst) and made our way to Capitol Hill.

LG: We made it through security pretty quickly and attended the Americans for the Arts Congressional Kick-Off Breakfast where a few congressional leaders who serve on different arts and educational caucuses spoke and really got us fired up to meet with our representatives.

KR: Promptly at 10am we were in a full delegation meeting at the Hart building where the Senate offices are located.

LG: On day one, Americans for the Arts prepared us that if given our representatives’ schedules, (and what caucuses and committees would be in session), it was highly probable we would be meeting with members of their staff who would relay our “asks” to them. In New Jersey, we are very fortunate that our reps are active and aware of the issues we face in the arts, and all of their staff was incredibly receptive to us.

KR: We met with staff members from the offices of Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-6) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and we unexpectedly bumped into Senator Menendez! Such a great photo opp.

McC: If you’re left with one quote from this experience, what would it be?

KR: During the Congressional Kick-Off, Congressman John Lewis (GA-5), who was a key activist on the March on Washington and a “Big Six” leader of the Civil Rights Movement said: “Without dance, without song, without photography, the Civil Rights Movement would have been like a bird without wings.” This quote about the importance of art in history and society struck such a strong chord with everyone in the room.

LG: In his Keynote Address, Norman Lear, said “I don’t want to wake up tomorrow without hope.” It really resonated with me because it’s why we, as individuals, advocate. The groundwork may have been laid, but we must continue the fight so that there is a future. I believe that at the core, we advocate for a better quality of life for humanity as a collective.

LG and KR: Lastly, we just want to add that we are so grateful to ArtPrideNJ for recognizing us as Emerging Arts Leaders! By inviting us to D.C. with them and sponsoring our participation they made this incredible opportunity possible. To learn more, please visit McCarter's website or follow McCarter on Tumblr