'Be An #ArtsHero' packs star power to revive arts in struggling economy

Sandy Kenyon Image
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
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Sandy Kenyon has more on the grassroots effort that began on social media in the spring of 2020 and was supported by Cher and other stars.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- History was made back in January when the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee held the first hearing to help the Arts and Culture sector of our economy, which has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Broadway was shut down for a year and a half, along with much or the film and TV production in New York City.

That led to the birth of Be An #ArtsHero, a grassroots effort that began on social media in the spring of 2020 and was supported by Cher and other stars.

The artists behind it argue this sector of the economy is "too big to fail."

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Nadia Brown is an artist, actor, and advocate who is the Social Media Ambassador for the group.

"It's also really cool to be a woman of color and see younger women of color responding," she said.

She is just one in this broad group of arts workers who took their message to Congress in January and testified about the power of the creative economy.

The virtual hearing featured testimony from a New York City-based actor, Carson Elrod.

"We want Congress to contemplate the power, the peril, and the promise of the creative economy, and thankfully, that's what the hearing was called," he said.

It's an economy worth more than $900 billion that employs 5.2 million workers.

Elrod lost his health insurance when Broadway went dark, and a recurring role on a TV show evaporated.

"What started as a social media campaign then turned into an actual legislative lobbying effort," he said.

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He said he felt legislators could relate to their personal experiences and heard some of the pain in their stories.

"I definitely think they could," he said. "What's really critical is that Congress contemplate our sector of the economy, (which) is just like any other sector of the economy, and understand that there's not going to be a Great American Recovery without an arts and culture recovery."

The group wants Congress to pass an "Arts New Deal" modeled on the famous U.S. government program from the 1930s -- a program that would ensure the visual and performing arts thrive in the coming years.

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