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National Forum on Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities

Chat Session:
Robert L. Lynch

Tuesday, June 16, 1998 (10:30 - 11:00 AM EDT)

This afternoon, we are chatting with Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts. Mr. Lynch, can you please give us a brief description of the happenings at the Forum from your point of view?

I have been in attendance only since the lunch today, but in talking to people, I have seen great positive energy and enthusiasm for working together toward some political and community action that would enhance the ability of artists with disabilities to access resources. That seemed very encouraging to me.

Does your organization have any plans to become involved with the issues addressed at the Forum?

I have invited the Forum to present any of the issues discussed or final recommendations proposed to our National Policy Board. Our Policy Board is made up of arts industry leaders, mayors, county officials, former members of Congress, corporate leaders, and foundation leaders. The Board is designed to be able to take action or recommend action.

In your opinion, what is the area of main concern that has become apparent to you from your participation in the Forum?

The main thing that I have heard is the need for consistent information: both information about like-interested people around the country and information about the landscpe within which we have to operate. For example, in the few minutes I was sitting at lunch, I was able to clarify some misinformation that people had about the level of lobbying and advocacy work that they could do both as citizens and as nonprofit organizations. This kind of information needs to be more universally available.

Please tell us a little about the Cultural Advocacy Group, its relationship to the Forum issues, and its plans to address these issues.

The Cultural Advocacy Group is an informal coalition of about 55 organizations that are (1) national in scope, and (2) primarily about the arts and/or arts education. CAG was formed to decide upon and present a united front on arts advocacy issues. Member organizations include Very Special Arts and the John F. Kennedy Center, among others. The National Endowment for the Arts also participates as a guest and observer. Any group or any interested person can present a suggestion for action.

Are any student organizations involved?


What is CAG's relationship to the Goals 2000 Arts Education Partnership? How do these organizations differ?

CAG has been devoted primarily to saving the National Endowment for the Arts, although its mandate could be broadened. AEP has focused primarily on arts education issues and most particularly Goals 2000 issues. The Cultural Advisory Group is entirely volunteer and has no budget. AEP was originally funded by the NEA and is contracted through the Council of Chief State School Officers and NASAA (the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies).

Can you tell us about some of the issues Americans for the Arts is presently working on?

Some issues include: (1) the intersection between the entertainment industry and nonprofit arts; (2) the need for increased earned income for the arts sector; (3) national visibility campaign on the value of the arts (with CBS and BRAVO and Ovation); (4) the involvement of youth at risk in the arts; and (5) the role of the local arts agencies (which celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1999) in the 21st century.

Does Americans for the Arts have any programs for people with disabilities?

Our organization provides 5 cluster areas of services: (1) research and information, (2) professional development and leadership training, (3) visibility and public relations regarding the value of the arts, (4) participation in national arts policy forums, and (5) advocacy. In each of these 5 areas, our objective is to work toward access to all of the arts for all people and as such, the needs of people with disabilities are represented in some way in each area. Occasionally, we will produce separate publications, separate sessions at conferences, and separate PR efforts on this effort.

How do you provide research and information services?

We have a 3-member research team, led by Randy Cohen. On an ongoing basis, the team researches the programs and finances of our member base - which consists of the local arts agencies and the united arts fund industry - and the facts about the general cultural landscape. This information is made available to our members (for free) and on a fee basis to others. In addition, our researchers are often involved in a contractual basis by foundations in research on issues in community development and the arts. These issues include the economic impact of the arts, jobs, youth at risk, models, quantitative studies, and arts education. These services are available for a reduced fee to members and at a regular fee to others. Our research staff are sometimes engaged to do research for specific purposes by other organizations on a contracted basis.

Do you have any particular hopes for action to come from the Forum?

It is my hope that the Forum committee will present a set of policy recommenations that I can bring to our National Policy Board. If the Board votes to proceed on these recommendations, then they will become a part of our national advocacy agenda for action.

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