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A New Approach to Arts Advocacy

June 21, 2024
A young Asian girl wears safety glasses and sits in the lap of her father. They look at a piece of wood while woodworking equipment is nearby on a table.

A New Approach to Arts Advocacy

by Whitney Christiansen | Jun 21, 2024 | Ideas | 0 comments

Here at 4A Arts, we count ourselves very lucky to be part of a vast ecosystem of arts, culture, design, and craft; an ecosystem that includes artists, teachers, and advocates across the country.

But we also know that not everyone shares our values. After decades of funding cuts and attacks on the arts, we see that it will take more than the voices and involvement of artists and arts nonprofits to ensure that our culture thrives and inspires for generations to come. Without the support of everyday Americans, we face the closure of more and more theaters, the inability of schools to hire music teachers, and museums that can no longer invest in new and exciting exhibitions. 

So we have decided to try something new. 

It’s considered common sense in today’s algorithm-obsessed world to create messaging and advertising that appeals to your easiest target audience – in our case, that’s those who already love and support the arts.

But there are already some fantastic organizations who do that, and do it well. We are fortunate to have been able to partner with other amazing advocacy groups, from Arizona to Missouri, from Wyoming to Connecticut. Our staff members’ experience includes work with Be An #ArtsHero, Arts Workers United, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and even the founder of the New York International Fringe Festival.

A young Asian girl wears safety glasses and sits in the lap of her father. They look at a piece of wood while woodworking equipment is nearby on a table.

Instead, we are trying to reach those who aren’t on the radar of most arts nonprofits. We know that Americans love the arts, but they don’t always think of themselves as part of the art world. 

But every day, American families delight in watching their children onstage at recitals. Americans pick up a guitar and turn on YouTube in the hopes of learning how to play their favorite rock riff. Americans comb the aisles of Lowe’s and Menards to find just the right flowering tree to decorate their front yard. Americans restore and repaint classic cars and sketch out their latest ideas for their tattoo artists; they shop for exactly the right fabric for their newest cosplay; they tape a dozen paint chips to their wall to see which one creates just the right ambiance. 

Americans love to talk to their friends and family about the latest film they’ve seen, song they’ve downloaded, and craft beer they’ve tried.

A young man with dark hair plays the guitar while seated at a dinner table. Family members smile at him in the background.

We have chosen to advocate not just for the artists of our country, but also for all Americans, as we believe that arts and culture are basic human rights, ones that Americans value far more than they often realize.

We know that our approach may seem strange at first. But we hope that it’s an approach that can bring us closer together in a world where we are so often torn apart. 

And we hope you’ll join us in championing a world where every American has access to the beauty and joy that creative works bring to all of us. 

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Written by

Whitney Christiansen

Whitney S. Christiansen is a native Kentuckian with an interdisciplinary background in arts, education, and advocacy. She spent nearly a decade teaching secondary English and drama in public schools, receiving a master’s in Interdisciplinary Humanities from the University of Louisville in 2017, where she received that year’s Grady Nutt Award for the year’s most creative directed study project, “Summoned,” an interdisciplinary practicum that combined research on medieval morality plays and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus with contemporary concepts of costume and set design. From 2009-2015 she was a cast member and later director for the Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival, where she inaugurated and directed the festival’s teen cast, who developed two stage shows in the commedia dell’arte tradition. Leaving the classroom in 2019, Whitney received her second master’s degree from Colorado State University in Arts Leadership and Cultural Management, where she began working with Be An #ArtsHero, a grassroots campaign dedicated to bringing COVID relief to Arts Workers (now Arts Workers United.) She was the researcher on staff for AWU’s lobbying team for the U.S. House Small Business Committee’s January 2022 hearing on the creative economy, and for Ovation TV’s The Green Room with Nadia Brown, an educational comedy show about the creative economy that launched in March of 2022. Formerly the general manager of the Center for Music Ecosystems, Whitney heads up 4A Arts’ new research initiative alongside her work managing central operations....
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