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Engaging with Elected Officials: Tips from Ohio’s Current SASO Grantees

Being involved in the civic process and telling your powerful story about the impact of the arts in your life is every Ohioan’s right. We recently asked our current Statewide Art Service Organization (SASO) grantees about how they approach and maintain relationships with elected officials. Read below for their responses, with tips ranging from sending letters and event invitations, to researching interests and current projects in their district. 

Matt Wiederhold | Executive Director, Heritage Ohio 

When we meet with elected officials to talk about funding for the arts and projects in historic downtown communities, we often focus on how the investment will improve quality of life for residents and guests, and support destination tourism. Public art, murals, and live music at special events are important components of vibrant communities, and available for the entire community to enjoy at no cost. We are naturally drawn to beautiful and unique places, and the arts absolutely play a role in making Ohio a destination.  

Elected officials like to have data that investment in the arts and communities contributes to the local economy. Special events are huge draws for day or overnight trips in the state, which boosts the local tax base with overnight stays, and shopping and dining locally during the trip.  

Megan Fitze | Executive Director, Art Possible Ohio 

We tag elected officials in social media posts and thank them for supporting the arts in Ohio. We also send personal letters and thank you cards.  

Whenever possible, we share real stories of individuals or groups that been positively affected by accessible arts opportunities in Ohio. We also share hard data supporting their impact. 

Joan Platz | Research and Information Coordinator, Ohio Alliance for Arts Education 

I would learn about the lawmaker’s interests and try to establish a relationship with a lawmaker before asking them for something. Is the lawmaker an artist? Does the lawmaker have children interested in the arts? What are projects and legislation the lawmaker is working on? Do they go to the same restaurants or church? 

Communicate with the lawmaker and get to know their office staff. If I am a teacher, I would send the lawmaker articles about student achievements in the arts in my district and invite them to school events.   

Find some common area of interest or problem to solve. Work with the lawmaker on other projects. 

Be someone the lawmaker sees in the community. 

Jane D’Angelo | Executive Director, OhioDance 

Each year in the fall, I email letters to all members of the Ohio House and Senate along with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. I thank them for funding OhioDance through the grant we receive from the Ohio Arts Council. In our letter, we let them know what their funding will support, in detail, through the great programming OhioDance has. Write letters several times a year to your legislators. We write to all members of the House and Senate, although others may find it only necessary to write to their local officials. 

Invite them to your events and make appointments to speak with them in person. 

And, of course, thank them for funding your organization through the Ohio Arts Council. Make sure to let them know how much we value the Ohio Arts Council as exemplary stewards of state and federal tax dollars. 

Jessica Rosenblatt | Executive Director, Ohio Arts Professionals Network (OAPN) 

OAPN works closely with our Ohio arts leaders, interest groups, and arts councils to relay important legislation or arts funding information to our members. When our members advocate for the arts and make phone calls, send emails, or attend in-person meetings to speak about the importance of the arts, then our elected officials can better understand our work and its impact on citizens and our economy.  

OAPN encourages our members to stay alert and to actively advocate for the arts throughout the year. It's important that we also take time to call or write to thank our elected officials who are working hard to represent the arts in the Statehouse.

Read the OAC’s recent testimony before the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education and learn more about making the case for public funding for the arts through the OAC. Our talking points for the ongoing state budget process for state fiscal years 2024-2025 are available to all. 

Stay up to date with things arts in Ohio by subscribing to our monthly e-news and following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


Article written by Andrew Paa, Communications Strategist

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