Martha Richards Joins Cabinet of U.S. Department of Arts and Culture

USDAC_logo220WomenArts is proud to announce that our Executive Director, Martha Richards, will serve on the newly formed National Cabinet of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as their Senior Strategist for Women Artists.  In that capacity she will be collaborating with other key leaders to expand our national conversation about the role of arts and culture in our communities and to make sure that women artists are fully represented.

It is important to note that the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture is a citizen-led volunteer initiative and not a government agency. The U.S. Congress has repeatedly failed to take action to support the arts in any meaningful way, allocating only one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget to the arts.  In fact, the 2014 budget for the National Endowment for the Arts, including the funds for administration of the agency as well as for grants to artists, was only $146 million –
$16 million less than it was in 1984.  When the numbers are adjusted for the thirty years of inflation since 1984, the 2014 budget was approximately $225 million less in buying power than the 1984 budget. Our government spends twice as much on war every day as it spends on arts for the entire year.

Martha Richards

Martha Richards, WomenArts

Since our legislators are moving backward, the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture has been formed to move us forward.  A visionary group of arts activists (including long-time WomenArts collaborator Arlene Goldbard) launched this bold initiative in October 2013 as “a people-powered department, founded on the truth that art and culture are our most powerful and under-tapped resources for social change.

The U.S.D.A.C. recognizes that artists have the problem-solving skills that our country desperately needs – imagination, creativity, cooperation, and empathy, and they are working to help people cultivate those skills and share them as widely as possible.

In Arlene Goldbard’s moving speech at the inauguration of the first 22 members of the National Cabinet on November 17, she described various cultural policy efforts over the past 36 years, and then summarized our current situation with a quote from Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change:

“There are only two kinds of power in America. There’s organized money, and there’s organized people. For the last thirty years, organized money has had its way with policy and legislation in our economy. The only possible solution to the predicament we’re in is that organized people find their voice and demand a different path.”

WomenArts is proud to participate in the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture because we agree with this analysis.  We will never stop lobbying for more government support of the arts and more legislation to improve gender parity, but we have learned from many civil and human rights movements around the world that substantial and lasting change can be built through grassroots organizing.

We started Support Women Artists Now Day seven years ago as a way of encouraging women artists to celebrate their successes and to claim their power to move towards a more equitable future.  We will be reporting more on SWAN successes in the coming months, but it is clear that our grassroots SWAN Day initiative is playing an important role in the growing world-wide movement for gender parity in the arts.


WomenArts encourages all of our members to become active in this exciting grassroots initiative.  There are several ways that you can participate in the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture:

  • Sign Up As A Citizen Artist – If you believe that these times call for a deep investment in creativity and imagination, sign up as a Citizen Artist.  When you sign up, you will be put on the mailing list to receive calls for creative action and opportunities to share your skills.  You do not need to identify as an artist or be a U.S. citizen to join.  To sign up, please visit
  • Apply To Be A Cultural Agent – The USDAC is accepting applications for its second cohort of Cultural Agents until Friday, November 21.  Cultural agents are responsible for organizing an “Imagining” in their community, i.e. “an arts-infused gathering in which a community envisions its ideal future and identifies creative tactics to get there.”  Although Cultural Agents are not paid, they will receive 8 interactive training, coalition-building, and resource-sharing calls with the other Cultural Agents, the USDAC team, and invited special guests; one-on-one advisory calls with experienced organizers and facilitators; a shipment of USDAC stickers and buttons; and a modest budget for materials, space, and other expenses. It will be a great opportunity to serve your community and make strong connections with other arts activists.  The deadline for the current round of applications is Friday, November 21.  For more information, please visit:
  • People’s State of the Union – From January 23-30, 2015, individuals and organizations will host creative gatherings with three main ingredients: art, food, and meaningful dialogue. They will gather stories about community events that reflect the State of the Union from their perspectives.  Some of the stories will be published online and some will be given to a diverse group of poets to shape into a collaborative State of the Union address which will be broadcast online.  If you volunteer to host a gathering, you will receive an online training in facilitating story circles and a toolkit to help you organize a successful event.  For more information, please visit:
  • Action Calls – From time to time, the USDAC issues Action Calls to everyone on their mailing list and social media networks to encourage creative responses to urgent issues or events, such as police demilitarization or climate change.  Artists are invited to create works on the theme and to share them on the USDAC website.  For more information, please visit