Elevating Arts, Culture, & Creativity in Elections in TEXAS
We see a direct correlation between educating candidates for elected office, activating citizens to be engaged and committed arts voters, and positive electoral outcomes in support of arts and culture!
Seeing the need and opportunity to make arts and culture a critical part of a candidate's platform, Texans for the Arts Foundation launched Arts Vote Texas in January of this year, a nonpartisan public education campaign to raise awareness and support for arts, culture, and creative expression. Working together with artists, arts leaders, residents and educators, our goal is to strategically organize, advocate and elevate the arts and culture as a platform issue with elected officials and community leaders.
We piloted this initiative as Arts Vote Dallas in partnership with the Dallas Area Cultural Advocacy Coalition (DACAC) and MASSCreative in Boston, with generous support from the Embrey Family Foundation and the Hersh Foundation.
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The Arts Vote Dallas team is now seeing the fruits from several months of hard work as round one of municipal elections took place on Saturday, May 4. Voters were choosing a new mayor, and all of the 14 city council seats were up as well. [For a complete list of election results, visit www.DallasCountyVotes.org.] Since January, the team has spent countless hours meeting with almost all the candidates for mayor and council to discuss the arts community, its economic impact, how it boosts quality of life and attracts tourists, City funding, the new Dallas Cultural Plan, and potentially raising the arts portion of the Dallas hotel occupancy tax (HOT) from its current level at 2.6% (with a maximum of 15%). Those meetings resulted in every candidate being a strong supporter of the arts, and – while not all agreed to a specific percentage - all supported some level of increase in HOT-arts funding. They especially appreciated the efforts to educate them about the arts, so when asked about the issues at forums, they could provide educated answers.
As part of this initiative, the Arts Vote Dallas team launched an online pledge form for Arts Voters - 301 pledges so far! They also created I’m an Arts Voter buttons and decals, posted candidate responses to an arts survey, held a well attended 90-minute mayoral candidate forum at the Nasher Sculpture Center, showed up at candidate forums with arts questions, hosted a candidate-arts community meet and greet, conducted an arts voter registration effort, and many arts groups used curtain speeches to urge voters to the polls AND to take the extra step of letting candidates know you care about the arts and want their support.
The team’s efforts will continue through the run off on Saturday, June 8. [A resource for the run-off is www.VOTE411.org brought to you by the League of Women Voters/Texas.] Then they will take all the lessons learned, and create a template/tool kit of their efforts so that other communities can put these practices into action to build strong arts advocacy communities across Texas.
A special thank you to everyone who participated (and continues to do so!) in any way in Arts Vote Dallas, helping elevate the discussion around the vital role that arts and culture play in strengthening the future of our communities!