Arts advocacy is about communicating the value of the arts and artistic practice for society. Learn to put the value and the importance of arts and culture into words and tailor your story to your discussion partner. Because every situation needs its own story, with accompanying arguments.
Artistic, social and economic value
It is vital for everyone who works in the arts and culture sector to stand up for this sector. Because the support for this sector has proven to be fragile in the past, it is important to clarify what makes arts and culture so valuable and meaningful, both socially and personally. Moreover if you can properly explain your own work and you can also properly formulate the intrinsic value of your field, that will be to the benefit to your own entrepreneurship.
The arts not only exist in recognised institutions, such as venues and museums; there is a very broad and diverse range of arts and culture in our society as a whole. Even if you are not actively looking for it, you are occupied with it all the same on a daily basis. Your clothing, the music that blares out your headphone, the buildings around you, a film, your favourite series or magazine... The arts and culture sector surrounds us the entire day and is also therefore of significance to people who do not directly see themselves as arts lovers.
The arts have an impact and therefore personal value, artistic value, social value and economic value. Substantiate your story as much as possible with clear arguments, examples, facts and figures that are in line with your discussion partner.
Role of the professionals
As a professional in this sector, you possess imagination, critical faculties and creative expertise. You develop these during your studies and in working life. As a result of this, you are able, for example, to transform a (personal) story or a reflection on social problems – alone or with others – into a new (art) form. In this way, you not only draw from society, but you also give back a reflection on these times. This is how you make an impact on society with your work.
The political arts lobby
Arts advocacy is used at the political level for the so-called ‘arts lobby’, where representative bodies, such as professional associations and trade unions, ensure that politicians and policymakers are made aware of the value of arts and culture. They do this by naming both measurable values and the intrinsic value of the arts.
A good example of this is the ‘New Creative Deal’ that the Dutch interest group for the cultural and creative sector Kunsten ’92 (Arts ‘92) and the Federatie Creatieve Industrie (Dutch Creative Industries Federation) presented in 2021, in which they also lay out the ambitions of the sector and plot lines of action. The entire sector benefits from the fact that these interest groups lobby for the arts at the political level. That only has a genuine impact if both arts institutions and creators express and disseminate why the arts is important for society. That is why you should also learn to tell and substantiate your own story.
Try it yourself: How would you describe the function of your work or field within our society?
The Executive Board of the Amsterdam University of the Arts (AHK) on the importance of arts education: ‘The arts offer an aesthetic experience, the arts move, but the arts can also take you out of your comfort zone, surprise, astonish or irritate you. The arts transform the meaning of that which you take for granted, broaden your outlook and open your ears. However, that requires you to do something: look and listen carefully, sit still (sometimes) and, above all, surrender to the artistic work. That investment can lead to a different perspective: a new outlook on other people, other lives and other forms. Good art turns spectators into observers, invites reflection on yourself and reality, and challenges you to adopt a position in that world.’
Source: ‘TH&MA Hoger Onderwijs: Kunst in een veranderende wereld, Het creatieve onderwijs in de 21ste eeuw’ (TH&MA Higher Education: The arts in a changing world. Creative education in the 21st century), by Jan Anthonie Bruijn, Annet Lekkerkerker, Bert Verveld. Publication: 2019, number 5.