Be An #ArtsHero/Arts Workers United to testify before Congress

The national non-partisan grassroots campaign Be An #ArtsHero, which has evolved into Arts Workers United, has worked closely with Democratic and Republican representatives over the past eight months to advocate for a hearing on the Creative Economy. On Wednesday, January 19, at 10 am ET, co-founder Carson Elrod will testify in a Congressional House Hearing before the Small Business Committee (SBC), chaired by Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07). The remote hearing on the Arts and Culture Sector, entitled “The Power, Peril, and Promise of the Creative Economy,” will be the first in history to draw attention to the entire Arts and Culture economy as a whole sector.

Representing nearly 5.2 million American workers, the arts sector is a major component of the economy. The Creative Economy was one of the hardest-hit sectors of the pandemic and the Omicron surge has provided even more challenges to an industry that largely relies on people being assembled together to witness live events. The hearing will provide recommendations for investments in key infrastructure and provide a roadmap for bringing arts, culture, and creativity into the center of long-term recovery.

Elrod will serve as one of four witnesses alongside Sandra Karas (Actors’ Equity Association), Raeanne Presley (Presleys’ Theater, testifying on behalf of the National Independent Venue Association, or NIVA), and Nataki Garrett (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). While only four witnesses may testify in this hearing, Be An #ArtsHero/Arts Workers United – endorsed by American Theater Wing, American Circus Alliance, Broadway Cares/EquityFightsAIDS, The Dramatists Guild of America, Costume Industry Coalition, Counterpoint, Dance/USA, Young Audiences Coalition, Ovation TV, FreelancersUnion, ExtendPUA, Touring Professionals Alliance, SIMS Foundation, and many more arts organizations – encourages all arts workers to make their voices heard and to testify across the country on their social media channels to spread awareness and solidarity in a Day of Testimony.

“From the earliest days of Be An #ArtsHero, our objective in every meeting the past two years was to get Congress to hold a hearing on the entirety of the American Creative Economy. We are humbled, honored, and thrilled to be invited to testify before the Small Business Committee on behalf of distressed Arts Workers everywhere,“ said Elrod.

“As the Omicron variant sweeps across our nation, once again shutting down live events, it only further drives home how vital it is that Congress understands our Creative Economy desperately needs dedicated relief, recovery, and representation,” continued Jenny Grace Makholm, co-founder of Be An #ArtsHero. She added, “This hearing is a culmination of decades of work from numerous organizations in our community who have tirelessly advocated for proportionate relief to maintain the human and physical infrastructure of the interdependent economic engine that is the Arts & Culture sector.”

“The time to reset the narrative for the creative worker is now,” said fellow co-founder Matthew-Lee Erlbach.

Among the points to be addressed in the Congressional hearing are:

The Arts & Culture Sector has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with $150 billion in lost sales between April-July 2020 alone, 63% unemployment, and 95% lost creative income; and the Arts & Culture Sector is big business, adding $919 billion to the US economy, 5.2 million jobs, and 4.3% of the US GDP, with 68% of tourism being cultural, and cultural tourists spending nearly twice as much as other tourists, while $1 of NEA spending leverages $9 back in public and private spending.

To view a livestream of the hearing, click here. For more details on how to become involved in being heard on social media, visit the Be An #ArtsHero website.


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