Highlights from the NAMAC Campaign and Policy Institute!

Lindsay Bosch
DC View

I’m excited to have finished up my second hectic day here at the Campaign and Policy Institute sponsored by the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture. I had a bit of an adventurous arrival, as my Metrobus from the airport caught fire en route to Washington. My fellow travelers and I disorderly evacuated onto to the highway shoulder, as our driver frantically shouted “Run, Run! The bus is going to explode!” Luckily we got out safe and sound, and fire trucks soon arrived as well as a replacement bus to take us on our way.

After that small hiccup, I arrived in town Monday afternoon and visited our fellow 99% as they occupied the national Mall. The Washington Occupiers were preparing for a Wednesday action and already had a great setup going Monday with live bands, a sign painting station, an active library and a small cafeteria!

On Tuesday I convened with the 16 other Institute participants representing arts and media organizations from around the country. In the morning we learned about recent advocacy efforts by the Prometheus Radio Project, Future of Music Coalition, and the Media Literacy Project. Over lunch, Joel Kelsey of Free Press gave us a great refresher of our “school house rock” education, reminding us how a Bill becomes a Law. He also gave us a crash course on the essentials of media lobbying here in the Capitol. In the afternoon we heard from Cheryl Leanza from Learned Hand, a media policy consulting firm as well as Gladstone Peyton from Americans for the Arts and Casey Rae-Hunter from Future of Music. These three experts caught us up on specific federal policies with implications for media artists and media arts organizations. Our big focuses this weekend are NEA funding, Net Neutrality, increased national broadband access and the current SOPA Act (Stop Online Piracy) VDB is a great advocate of artists’ rights and artist copyright; however it seems that SOPA is not an act that will truly protect these rights. Instead the proposed law greatly overreaches to restrict internet freedoms and open online access. At days end, I decompressed with my fellow CPI attendees at a nearby Happy Hour. Things got a bit testy when it turned out we were taking up the Department of Energy’s “usual” tables – but I think we could have taken them.

Today, we worked with Beth McConnell from the Media and Democracy Coalition in order to articulate ways that we can integrate goals and strategies for advocacy work in our own organizations. While VDB may not be lobbying regularly for video art and artists in DC, it seems that there are many ways we can integrate policy education and promote increased understanding of favorable laws for arts into the regular work we do. Later in the day we worked with Betty Yu, whose actions for the Center for Media Justice would be of great interest to a lot of VDB’s friends that focus on using media tools on behalf of social issues. We also spoke with Fred Johnson of the Media Working Group and practiced lobbying and campaign strategy “role play” led by Chancellor Williams, a lobbyist for Free Press. I’m continually impressed by how well spoken the Washingtonians are, and how clearly and succinctly they can express complex ideas. From an arts perspective, I think there is definite merit in honing our own pitches, talking points and “elevator speeches” in a similar way, to advocate for whatever we do.

At the end of the day we learned that we’ll soon be getting the opportunity to practice our newly minted lobbying skills. Tomorrow I will be meeting with staff members of senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk! I’m excited to tell the senators about the work of the VDB and our artists, and look forward to pointing out what a unique resource we are for Chicago and the state of Illinois. Joining me, will be Abigail Satinsky of Chicago’s threewalls who is also attending the Institute. Together we hope to draw the senator’s attention to the vibrancy of Chicago’s independent arts scene!

Lindsay Bosch, VDB Distribution Manager

Washington DC 12/08/2011