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Arts Industry Unites to Pen Letter to Biden/Harris Calling for Cabinet-Level Arts & Culture Agency

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

The letter has been signed by hundreds of workers in the arts industry (and counting).

With President-Elect Joe Biden soon to be taking office on January 20, 2021 as the 46th President of the United States, his incoming administration is firmly underway making preparations for the start of his new administration. Members of the arts community have joined together to pen an open letter calling for the support of the arts industry in the wake of the growing COVID-19 health crisis.

The letter has already been signed by hundreds of artists, and many notable Broadway artists, and the number only continues to grow.

Read the full letter below:

Dear President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris,

On behalf of the nation’s 5.1 million arts workers spanning stage, dance, film, music, performance, and visual arts, we ask that your administration establish a new Cabinet-level agency charged with supporting arts and culture. We believe that at this critical time, as you lead the nation toward recovery from the gravest public health crisis in a century and its terrible consequences, arts and culture not only matter, but are integral to recovery itself. Arts and culture not only represent a vital part of the economy but speak to the mental and physical health of the American people.

Arts and culture are the heartbeat of our nation. We re-discover ourselves by the stories we tell about ourselves, both as individuals and as a society; this is a time for transformation and recovery, and we will need vibrant new stories told by a diverse range of voices in order to move forward.

This is both an issue of values, and a Labor issue: arts workers are vital members of the American labor force. Yet as an industry and workers, we have been largely left behind by the federal government. The lack of arts and culture representation at the highest levels of government contributes to this state of affairs. The Department of Labor Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that Arts & Culture accounts for $877.8 billion dollars and 4.5% of US GDP; more than agriculture, transportation, or construction. The sector also represents over 5.1 million jobs. Simply put, the recovery of arts and culture is essential to full economic recovery.

Your candidacy was framed as a battle for the soul of this country. You need artists and arts workers to win this battle. We create and produce plays and musicals, films and television, albums and music videos, concerts, dance, and live events, curate and fill galleries and museums, write books and poetry and journalism. We collaborate with public health officials to disseminate vital information to our communities, and with civic officials and to rethink inclusive community development for the 21st century. We work with teachers and grassroots educational organizations to ensure that creative thinking and problem-solving remain a part of a 21st century American education. Art cultivates joy. It tells the story of who we are and who we want to be. It celebrates difference even as it reminds us of the commonality of the human spirit. It connects us in ways that transcend language, background, and political preference.

The creation of this position will be a signal to our international partners that we are re-joining the ranks of the global community with more depth and thoughtfulness than when the last Administration violently severed ties. As Peter Marks wrote recently in The Washington Post, “More than 50 nations designate an official in the top ranks of government whose portfolio includes nurturing artistic endeavors,” including the United Kingdom, which has a culture secretary, Canada, France, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, and Germany, and this has made an enormous difference to protecting the livelihood of arts and cultural workers.

Please consider this change so that you start your new administration with a Secretary of Arts and Culture at your table. It will immeasurably aid the long and difficult road ahead that we face as a nation and that the nation looks to you to lead. It is a step that will lift spirits and aid enormously in restoring this deeply bruised part of American life.

At this historic crossroads, we have the opportunity to look to the future through the eyes of the next generation. As FDR inherited a country in crisis, the visionary Works Progress Administration, including the Federal Writers’ Project, Federal Theatre Project, and Federal Art Project, demonstrated that the arts were as essential as bridges and buildings to a holistic national recovery. Safeguarding the value and diversity of our nation’s arts and culture will be the most important legacy we leave behind.

We are with you, proud to stand as passionate American laborers with a fierce commitment to your Presidency, and to doing our part to support this nation’s recovery.

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