An open letter to Louisiana legislators: Save the Artists.
Dear Louisiana Legislators,
Every year, hundreds of artists and arts advocates make the trek to the State Capital to request your support of the arts, and every year, the resources continue to shrink. But today, I learned of a proposed amendment that has artists everywhere shaking their heads: artists are being asked, in effect, to pay the state, via donations of art.
Senator Dan Claitor’s attached amendment to HB216, a bill that already restricts the state’s public art program, proposes that “No funds shall be expended for the acquisition of new works of art until after the agency has sought the donation of works of art from artists within the state and has been unable to obtain such work without charge.”
I am outraged at the utter lack of respect for the profession of artists and the continued and all-too-often expectation that artists were put on this earth to support a myriad of causes, and now the State of Louisiana, with their talents.
For artists, their work is their livelihoods. Their paychecks. It’s food on the table for their families. It’s their choice of profession, in the same way that a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, an educator, or any other taxpayer in this great state chooses his or her profession.
Is the State of Louisiana seeking volunteers to teach our children for free, attorneys to represent the state for free, workers to repair our roads for free, accountants to monitor the state budget for free? Are we asking for volunteers to serve as legislators for free?
To the best of my knowledge, we are not. So why does Senator Claitor think it is okay to ask artists to provide their professional services for free?
In 2015, I founded Artists & Causes, an organization working to change the way people think about artists of all genres, with equitable financial structures that are mutually beneficial to both the artists and the causes. So everybody wins. The bottom line is that with the excessive, continued, year-round requests for donations of creative goods and services, many artists cannot afford to continue to make a living. The term “starving artist” is a sad reality, and the often empty promise of exposure doesn’t pay the bills.
Until such time as Senator Claitor is willing to volunteer to offer his legislative services at no charge to the state, and until such time as his colleagues are willing to do the same, the request that artists do so is unacceptable and hypocritical.
I encourage you to stand up for the creatives that make Louisiana so amazing, and defeat Senator Claitor’s amendment. It’s imperative that we protect our cultural economy, one of the state’s largest industries, by showing support for, not taking advantage of, our artists.
To those who appreciate our creative professionals, please share your voice. Visit Louisiana Citizens for the Arts. With just a few clicks, you can show your support. Every voice matters.
UPDATE: Never underestimate the passion of arts advocates.
Check out this May 18 update provided by Gene Meneray, Chair of Louisiana Citizens for the Arts.
Thank you for a rousing response to Senator Claitor’s Amendment attached to HB216 limiting the state’s public art program. The amendment compelling the state to seek free artwork has been defeated 99-0.
The response from you has been amazing. In terms of volume, it’s the largest advocacy push back we’ve seen on an arts issue, with constituents like you from New Orleans to Bossier telling the Legislature to reject this amendment. They listened, and we won for now, but the fight is not over. The Bill will now go to conference, and we may have to call on you again to ensure that our Representatives know that Louisiana values the arts. But for now, thank you again, and let’s keep supporting our Louisiana culture.