Advocacy is for Everyone

Christohper Kiley, Associate Director of Texans for the Arts

Advocacy is not reserved only for lobbyists behind closed doors. Advocacy is for all of us. We all have a story. If you are reading this, then I imagine the arts have been an invaluable part of your life in some way. Isn’t that worth fighting for? Of course it is!

As we enter our final weeks of the #EveryMemberCounts Campaign at Texans for the Arts, today I want to talk to you about why I am so inspired by the work of our organization and why I remain committed to it after some six years with Texans for the Arts.

Some of you know me, and some of you I may not have had the pleasure of meeting yet. My name is Chris Kiley. I serve as the Associate Director at Texans for the Arts. I began my journey with TFA all the way back in 2015. That is when I met our fearless leader Ann S Graham. She was hosting one of TFA’s Arts Leadership and Development Workshops in Lubbock, TX.

At the time, I was just getting to work on my MFA in Arts Administration for Texas Tech University, and I had no idea that meeting Ann that day would not only introduce to me to the world of advocacy but would serve as one of the most important meetings in my professional life.

I grew up in New Hampshire, “home of the first primary” so as you can imagine I spent a large portion of my childhood surrounded by some of the most exciting moments politics has to offer. The democratic process unfolded before my eyes. I met Presidential hopefuls, some of whom would ultimately serve as our leader. It instilled me in me an ardent sense of patriotism and love for the field.

I also grew up with discovering a lifelong passion for the arts. I loved to paint. I loved to sing. I even tried to love playing the trumpet, although that one didn’t stick as much. Above all, I loved the theater – so much so that I went on to get my undergraduate degree in Acting. Something about the bright lights, the energy of a packed theater, and the other performers on stage. The artwork feels alive to me.

Now when I met Ann at that workshop, I had no idea that these two loves could ever be connected, beyond perhaps the performative element of a politician at a podium. That day, I learned that there is vital funding for the arts that comes from the public sector. I learned that those funds must be nurtured, protected, even fought for. I learned that the process by which we do this is advocacy and it really is up to us to lead the way. We can and must participate in this process. It’s a beautiful marriage of the political and artistic spheres.

Advocacy is not reserved only for lobbyists behind closed doors. Advocacy is for all of us. We all have a story. If you are reading this, then I imagine the arts have been an invaluable part of your life in some way. Isn’t that worth fighting for? Of course it is!

Now, I may not directly benefit from the Texas Commission on the Arts, its Cultural District Funding, or municipal hotel tax dollars that go back to the arts (in fact I know I don’t); but thanks to my time at TFA I know many who do, and I am so proud of that work. I am so proud to see that kind of art being made here in Texas.

Arts-rich communities improve our lives. They drive our local economies. They help educate our children and prepare them for the future. This is what Texans for the Arts is all about. This is why I started as a volunteer, became a part time employee, and eventually moved up into executive management at Texans for the Arts. This is why even though I am an employee of Texans for the Arts. I am also a proud, dues paying member every year, six years later.

Today, I am asking you to join Texans for the Arts.

Be part of the process. Help protect these critical funds which the arts needs now more than ever in the age of COVID-19. Let’s work together to make sure that the future for the arts in Texas is brighter than any stage lights. The tag line for this campaign could not be more true. We are only as strong as our coalition of advocates, ready, willing, and able to fight for the arts.  Truly, #EveryMemberCounts.

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