This third installment - How To Tell the Tale - will center around how those involved in creative community work can engage with advocates in order to develop functional, ongoing relationships with policymakers and funders.
About...Productions is honored to welcome two speakers from Arts for LA, an arts advocacy and civic engagement organization.
Below is a brief interview with Communications Manager Charles Jensen who, along with Advocacy Manager Cristina Pacheco, will be featured speakers at Wednesday's symposium.
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RAMONA GONZALES: As the Communications Manager for Arts for LA, what role do you see social media playing in arts advocacy and community engagement?
CHARLES JENSEN: Social media is a key strategy for us in hitting our three organizational goals: to inform, to engage, and to mobilize arts supporters around key issues. It's also a great way for us to stay on top of the "conversation" happening online around arts and culture and to connect and network with LA County arts organizations as well as our peer advocacy organizations around the country.
Social media feels more immediate and urgent, so it's a natural fit for spreading information and messaging. And because it's easily "shareable," we're able to reach the networks of our network—people we might not able to contact otherwise.
RG: As an arts advocacy organization, what kinds of things does Arts in LA do to develop and foster both new and seasoned advocates?
CJ: We coordinate a lot of informative convenings around issues and create opportunities for advocates to develop stronger skills in talking about arts and culture with decision makers and other stakeholders. In the past two years, we created a "Speakers Bureau" of advocates who have been trained in providing public comment to elected officials at public meetings, and that has worked out really well for them and for us. Whenever an opportunity to speak comes up--often without much warning--we can reach out to these individuals and prepare them quickly to show up at the meeting to speak on behalf of arts and culture.
We've also tried to create opportunities for our volunteer advocates to take on greater responsibility and leadership. We coordinate "delegates" for ArtsDay each year; last year, we created an opportunity for delegation captains, people who volunteered to facilitate and steer their conversations with City Council offices, to receive deeper training on cultural policy and meeting facilitation. Overall, it feels like people are hungry for these opportunities! Meeting with elected officials can be intimidating without a little grounding in these processes, so we strive to make it as easy and as fun as possible.
RG: You've worked in the corporate, nonprofit, and higher education worlds over the course of your career. What piqued your interest in working with an arts advocacy organization?
CJ: I've always been very interested in social justice, rhetoric, and community development, so arts advocacy brought all those things together for me while also allowing me to bring my personal passion for the arts into the mix. I value the opportunity to make a difference and make the community a better place for all of us.
RG: Are there any current events or news stories that have come to your attention lately around advocacy and communication?
CJ: We're heading into the fall election cycle, so that brings more people into contact with advocacy communication. There's a lot of misunderstanding around what nonprofit organizations can and can do with elections; this is one issue I've been working to address at Arts for LA. Nonprofits are trusted community leaders and, especially in Los Angeles County, can be part of the solution to our voter participation problem. But, that's only if they speak up. Encouraging people to file voter registration, to show up to the polls, and to be informed voters are all calls to action the nonprofit arts community can make within our legal rights. I hope more organizations will participate this fall! Every election is important, but local elections are the best opportunity for us to foster tangible change.
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