Spring 2017

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8 SAG-AFTRA | Spring 2017 | A Letter from the Executive Vice President R E B E C C A D A M O N "Art is the soul of our culture. It reflects our values and challenges our beliefs." Dear Member, I t's hard to believe we just celebrated the five-year anniversary of SAG-AFTRA in March. We have come so far in such a short time and we are only gaining momentum. From gains in our contracts to new areas of organizing like Telemundo, SAG-AFTRA is on a roll. These gains didn't come easy, but being a union member has always meant having to fight. And fight we must. Unions are under attack and now art itself is in the crosshairs. While some may question the value of the arts, I believe our members are definitive proof that the arts do matter. Those who see art as a luxury fail to understand that it is integral to our society, not separate from it — culture shapes art and art creates culture. A moving and memorable performance, a song that captures the zeitgeist of the moment or an insightful news report — all these things can change the world, and our fellow members are the ones creating them. At this time, our leaders in Washington are considering a proposed budget which would terminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). If such a radical act were to be approved, countless Americans from across the socioeconomic and political spectrum would be adversely affected, particularly those in rural America, who would be exposed to less art and educational content. Recovering veterans would no longer benefit from CPB programming and over 4 million jobs in the arts and related industries would be threatened. The impact of our work in the arts and media is immeasurable; it gives people the power to dream. People have become doctors, scientists and social workers, dedicating their entire lives to helping others because of something they saw on television or at the movies. Maybe one of your performances motivated them to finally call an estranged family member, offer a helping hand to someone they don't know or to just to be a little more understanding. Art is the soul of our culture. It reflects our values and challenges our beliefs. It moves us forward and it lifts us up. It shows us who we are and who we can be. It expands our horizons by celebrating the diversity of human experience, and draws us together by acknowledging the qualities and concerns we all share. Art had a profound impact on my life from an early age. As a child, my mother took me to an art museum and I remember seeing my first Van Gogh and Monet. I left the museum that day a different person. My eyes were opened to a world of culture and color, diversity and new frontiers. When I first began studying theater, my understanding of the world was forever transformed. My teacher helped me unlock my imagination and discover a new array of possibilities. Through the arts, I expanded my awareness of reality beyond my home in Nebraska, and became the first member of my family to move from the Midwest to New York. Art has made me who I am, and it's probably made you who you are as well. As creators, we understand the value of the amazing work we do and why the arts are something that need protecting. I hope you agree, and I invite you to join me by contacting your elected representatives in Congress and urging them to support a budget that continues funding the NEA, NEH and CPB. What we do has great significance. We as a society cannot afford to diminish the arts. Onward together, Rebecca Damon

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