The Election Year + ART

by James Swindell, guest writer & EALS Ambassador

There are several directions this blog could take to explore the intersections between many of the current issues in this Presidential election like healthcare or tax reform with the arts. And though I would love to discuss the election at length here, I will leave the political commentary to the pundits only to focus on a more personal narrative pertaining to advocacy.

My Aunt spent most of the 90’s as a freelance photographer and her favorite clients turned out to be Virginia State Representatives. She would often invite my father and me along to events like political party dinners or election night parties. It would be safe to assume that at this point in my life my Aunt was grooming me to be a political protégé of many of these men and women. I distinctly remember one particular trip to the Virginia State Capitol where I shook the hand of the Governor, Lt. Governor, and a State Delegate who later became the Governor. It was a shining moment for the short, husky, ten year old version of me.

Today, however, I find myself on the opposite end of the political spectrum than my Aunt and I am more likely to join the campaign against those politicians than shake their hands. I am quick to engage those who speak of politics and even quicker to find myself in a heated debate. Over the course of my life, I have come to value my position within the larger political conversation and especially so as a student in Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Public Policy and Management at Heinz College. An election year is an excellent reminder of our civic duty to vote or tune into debates, but I have learned that the arts community constantly needs voices to project our needs to those in office.

There is a crucial intersection between politics and the arts. This year’s theme for the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium “+ ART” challenges us all to think of where our art intersects in every aspect of our lives. Politics and Advocacy rank among some of the most important. It is my hope that this blog encourages you to attend such events as Arts Advocacy Day and to vote in the upcoming election. As emerging arts leaders, it is always helpful to serve as a reminder that we (the arts) are here and that we have a unique story to tell. Attend the symposium, Arts Advocacy Day, or advocacy events in your state (i.e. Virginia and Maryland). Most importantly, register to vote. I challenge each of you to remain involved in this election year and every year in between. Without your knowledge and participation, the arts will be left without an advocate. Or in the words of Lyndon B. Johnson, “Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”

James Swindell is a second-year graduate student enrolled in the Master of Arts Management (MAM) program at Carnegie Mellon University and currently serves as the Administrative Associate with Resonance Works Pittsburgh. He has previously held positions with Ferguson Center for the Arts, Virginia Opera Association, Glimmerglass Festival, and Ash Lawn Opera. Originally from Chesapeake, Virginia, he is a passionate musician and an emerging arts leader with interests in programming, operations, engagement, and box office. In his spare time he likes to attend local arts engagements, sporting events, and services at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. ~@JimSwindell


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Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium

c/o Sherburne Laughlin

Katzen Arts Center at American University, Room 215

4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20016



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