Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Call Cuomo, Now


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the Week, Will Maitland Weiss

You probably voted for the guy (considering the alternatives!). You probably don’t want his job (theater companies have all kinds of challenges, but I don’t know of one whose new executive director, his/her first day on the job, has a $10 billion budget deficit).

No surprise, in his budget presentation a couple of hours ago, Governor Cuomo proposed a ten percent cut to the NY State Council on the Arts.

Bad:  we’ve been suffering the death-by-a-thousand-cuts over several years; NYSCA’s funding budget continues to dwindle.
Good:  the arts were not singled out for punitive action; eliminating the State Council was not on the table—as it is right now in several other states. Cuomo did not speak of NYSCA or the arts specifically.
Bad:  where’s the message that he cares about this sector?
Good:  NYSCA was not among the agencies singled out for cost-cutting mergers. Cuomo says he won’t raise taxes; he has to cut billions; some were predicting much more draconian measures.

And now you have to send a message back:
Thank you for caring about keeping New York great. I live here. I work here. I pay taxes here. I vote here. I choose to do this in New York BECAUSE IT A STATE THAT NOURISHES CREATIVITY. As you continue to negotiate the budget, please show me you agree.

(By the way, I still totally believe NY is the CENTER of the arts universe. Check out the exponential growth of arts majors among CUNY, SUNY, and private college/university undergraduates and grad students. Why does ABC/NY get ten applications, from all over the country and abroad, for every Multicultural Summer Internship position we offer? Check out the growth of ABC/NY’s Emerging Leaders of New York Arts network. But even if you think Berlin or Beijing can rival our artfulness, what governor would propose that his State not nurture creativity?)

Our friends at the Arts NYS Coalition have a link to Write-Cuomo-Now, which is great, but I’ll suggest you consider the following embellishments—all suggestions from pro-arts elected officials and staff:
  • Don’t use a canned message. Write your own. One sentence is enough; clear and short is better than anything and long.
  • E-mail is how we all communicate. But if you take the additional time and stamp to go postal, it does have more impact. Again, it can be one sentence.
  • Be sure to include your name and address. No, they do not want to engage in deep dialogue. Yes, they want to add you to their e- and postal distributions lists. They also want evidence you are a real person (voter), and they care where you live/work.
  • Give them an objective (not a tirade):  tell them specifically what you would like them to do, e.g. please consider more support for NY’s creativity.

Even better idea #1:  contact Cuomo—and your other elected representatives—now and throughout the year. NOT just at budget time, or at NYSCA or DCA funding time. Same message, 24/7/365:  I don’t have to live/work in NY, I do so because of the arts.

Even better idea #2:  get someone else to contact Cuomo and your other elected representatives. What my government friends call a “diversity of voices.” Even better than you, who gets paid (maybe) to Make Art:  board members, audience members. The manager of the restaurant down the block that survives because of your audience. The hardware store/lumber yard/dry cleaner/printer to whom you give some of your operating budget. The parents whose kids are inspired by your classes.

“Hey! This theater, this dance company, this gallery is how I stay in business! It’s what provides jobs in my community! It’s what makes me want to live in my community. It’s what makes New York New York!”



  1. It seems whenever they do the budgets, arts funding is always the hardest hit. There are plenty of studies (including those you mention above) that clearly show that the arts are an economic engine.

    The Alliance for the Arts study says that for every $1 that is spent on the arts, $1.77 is generated. If I got those kinds of returns on my stock market investments, I'd be pouring more money into them.

  2. It is so important to know the kinds of things that are important to or catch the ear of our elected officials.

    Thanks for helping us put together a concise message that they will listen to. We hope.

  3. We're writing our letters tonight!

  4. StevenE, you know you’re right, and I sure know you’re right. Others need to be reminded and reminded and reminded.

    Thank YOU, Melissa and IT Foundation. Each message helps!