I finally joined AAM last week and attended their advocacy webinar called: Listen up Legislators! Getting your message across. I didn't know what a wealth of resources the AAM would prove to be, and even though I'm not currently working in a museum profession (hello recession!), the advice they gave for making the voices of smaller institutions heard are just as valuable for anyone else looking to bring their concerns to the national level. Check out their website if you're at all interested in learning how the process works (great stuff).
For those of you motivated (yes please!), Museums Advocacy Day is this February 23-24 in DC. Directors, administrators, and participants in all sorts of museum and non-profit arts related activities will be heading to the capitol to meet with their national leaders. And, believe it or not, this will actually happen. If you sign up for a meeting through the AAM they will use your address to find your congressional or senatorial representative and throw their weight around to get you a one-on-one meeting.
AND! Even more shocking: these meetings actually make a difference! According to the AAM, state legislators are most influenced by these personal appeals, followed by personal letters (not those form letters everyone seems to send), personal emails, and lastly, phone calls. And if you speak on behalf of yourself (not as a member of an institution), legislators are even more inclined to take what you say seriously.
If you can't attend (I'll be at the concurrent CAA conference), there are other things you can do. Send a letter. I mean a real letter explaining how the global economic climate has affected you as an artist, a leader, a citizen. I'm writing about me and all the friends I know who are well- educated, enthusiastic, and motivated to work in arts organizations, but who became recent graduates as the economy went down the tubes and now can't find a job in the field. Since students can't file for unemployment, they're totally off the radar. Type in your zipcode here for a list of who your legislators are.
I know many of you are demoralized and cynical about the way local and state government works, and I'm not trying to gloss over the more sinister aspects of our political system. But because there is so much we can't control in the legislative process it becomes that much more important to seize what we can and run with it. So please. Give it a shot.