Americans for the Arts

Author:Ed Dinger

Page 101

1000 Vermont Ave. NW, 12th Fl.

Washington, DC 20005


Telephone: (202) 371-2830

Fax: (202) 371-0424

Web site:


In 2002 the nonprofit arts-advocacy group Americans for the Arts (AFA) teamed up with the Advertising Council, the producer of a myriad of public-service advertising campaigns, to present the "Art. Ask for More" campaign. The organizers believed that the arts were a valuable component in the education of children and were concerned that, in an age of budget cuts, it was receiving short shrift. In order to make the case for increased funding for arts education in public schools, the campaign targeted parents and community leaders.

Texas-based ad agency GSD&M created the campaign, which was funded by a $1 million grant and was the recipient of approximately $30 million in donated media each year. It consisted of television and radio spots, print ads, outdoor advertisements, and Internet elements. Many of the advertisements highlighted Americans' lack of arts knowledge, claiming, for instance, that trumpet player Louis Armstrong was often confused with astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. They also humorously illustrated the effects of too little art in a child's development. One television spot showed a child boring everyone at the dinner table by reciting a typical day at school, minus art; another depicted a child whose idea of a fun bedtime story was a volume of arcane zoning regulations.

The "Art. Ask for More" campaign, according to organizers, succeeded in raising awareness about the importance of the arts in education. It was also successful in attracting a great deal of free national media as well as participation from local arts groups. In 2003 the print campaign won three ATHENA Awards, which were given out annually to honor newspaper ads.


Americans for the Arts (AFA) was formed in 1996 through the merger of the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies and the American Council for the Arts. Their combined resources allowed AFA to better advocate for greater emphasis on arts education in the United States. The state of public education in America in the final decades of the twentieth century had come under question, as it appeared that U.S. students were falling further behind their foreign counterparts in a number of areas. Because so many jobs of the future were related to information and technology, most of the remedies for fixing school systems called for a greater emphasis on reading, math, and science. Many schools had never offered much in terms of arts education, but now, because of budget cuts, schools had to make difficult choices about how to allocate funds, and in many cases art programs were slashed or eliminated altogether.

Page 102

AFA and other arts advocates argued that the elimination of art programs—including the visual arts, music, dance, and drama—in public schools was shortsighted. Their position, backed by various studies, was that arts education played a vital role in the development of children and that building cultural awareness was just as important as improving math skills and an understanding of science. AFA argued that art education was important to early childhood development and was especially valuable in shaping brain and motor coordination. As children grew older, involvement in the arts helped increase self-esteem, improved problem-solving skills, instilled a sense of...

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