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American Alliance of Museums Proposes Plan to Get Field Back to Work

The “creative economy” is an $878-billion industry that supports 5.1 million jobs and represents 4.5% of the nation’s economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The museum field specifically supports 726,000 of the 5.1 million creative workers in the United States. The financial insecurity caused by the pandemic has resulted in tremendous job loss and economic hardship for museum workers.

“Museum employees are critical to the education of our communities and interpretation and preservation of our history and culture,” said Laura Lott, President and CEO of AAM, “Museum workers have the tools and expertise to capture, document, and interpret this unprecedented moment in our nation’s history and help their communities collectively process their grief and recent trauma. The recovery of United States’ economy and educational system won’t be possible without its museum workforce.”

The strategy also advocates for expanding opportunities and lowering barriers for public access to cultural experiences and venues including using museums as temporary alternate sites for public schools.

This cross-cutting set of policy proposals was developed in collaboration with, and with input from, more than 100 partners, and will be delivered to both Presidential campaigns as well as to members of Congress to inform their recovery and rebuilding strategies in the months ahead.

Included in the actions are:

Support Access to Arts, Culture, and Arts Education

Expand opportunities and lower barriers for public access to cultural experiences and venues. Support cultural organizations and commission free community entertainment, engagement, and partnership opportunities, which can provide community cultural nexus points and valuable social and mental health benefits to community residents. In addition, during recovery and as required, incentivize local and state public and private investment to help cultural venues adapt their facilities and digital platforms, and to generally provide safe settings for family learning, performances, and wellness programs. These efforts will allow organizations to deliver on their missions in new ways, such as by providing temporary alternate sites for public schools, provide affordable cultural experiences, employ creative workers, and address community health needs, while also reinforcing the essential value of cultural organizations to the fabric of the community.

Engage In, and Drive, Direct Employment of Creative Workers

Use executive action to advance direct employment of creative workers within federal agencies and programs. Employ creative workers as artists-in-residence, fellows, community or cultural organizers, teaching artists, and project managers, with a focus on economy-boosting creative jobs that will strengthen our communities, schools, public health systems; beautify our infrastructure; create a full and vibrant social and creative life in communities; and lead the transition into the next economy.

Capture and document this unprecedented moment in our nation’s history through photographs, narratives, storytelling, murals, films, plays and other media. Creating a matrix of stories and conversations to move a moment of loss into an opportunity for grieving and recovery will aid development of community-driven responses to systemic racism, historic inequities, and recent trauma. These commissions will illuminate under-told or erased narratives and histories of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color; immigrants; people in rural communities; people with disabilities; LGBTQIA people; poor people; women; and children.

Drive Local, State, and Private Sector Activation of Creative Workers

Prioritize and incentivize public and private sector support, access to capital, and equitable funding of arts producing organizations, small creative businesses, community cultural centers, and collectives. In particular, focus on organizations that are led by members of and/or based in Black, Indigenous, and communities of color and have served those communities despite chronic under-funding, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19, the economic crisis, and historical inequities in the arts and in all sectors of American society.

Adjust Existing Policies to Recognize Creative Workers as Workers

Overhaul outdated employment, insurance, food, and housing policies to make them more inclusive of the more than 55 million independent workers in the country. Focus on (1) the permanent extension of small business programs and unemployment insurance benefits to self-employed artists, independent contractors, entrepreneurs, and workers who receive both W2s and 1099s, (2) universal access to portable health insurance for a constantly moving workforce, and (3) explicit inclusion of independent workers in policies related to affordable food and housing access.

Integrate Creative Interventions into Response, Recovery and Resilience Programs

Through executive action and in collaboration with Congress, direct and incentivize the integration of creative workers and creative organizations at the municipal, county, state, and tribal levels during disaster relief and recovery efforts. Through such action, support sustainability and resiliency, create a sense of belonging, improve community and public health, document the moment, and engage the public in community dialogue to process trauma. In addition, formalize creative work as an anchor of innovative transportation initiatives, improve education, document the time, beautify and make sense of places, develop media and awareness campaigns related to health and recovery, curate free and low-cost cultural opportunities, and engage the public in essential community dialogue.

Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch commented, “The arts are part of the heart and soul of America, and creativity has always been essential to recovery – there can be no recovery without it. To thrive post-pandemic, the United States must leverage its creative power, putting creative workers to work rebuilding, reimagining, unifying, and healing communities in every state and territory, as well as within tribal lands. I strongly urge the next Administration to put creative workers to work alongside all of the others ready to help rebuild and reimagine our communities and places, and the whole country will be made better for it.”

To date, 755 arts and culture organizations and creative workers from 48 states and the District of Columbia have endorsed the creative workforce proposal. To view the full 15-action proposal as well as the ever-growing list of endorsing organizations and individuals, visit “To Rebuild and Reimagine America, We Must Put Creative Workers to Work” at http://www.americansforthearts.org/CreativeWork.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community.  For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.