Actor Baldwin, Other Artists Lobby Congress for Arts Funding

Actor Alec Baldwin joined other professional artists on Capitol Hill Tuesday to kick off Arts Advocacy Day and lobby Congress for arts funding.

Speaking to a standing room only crowd of members of lawmakers and state arts officials, Baldwin commended Congress for several years of funding increases to the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1996, the Republican-controlled Congress slashed the agency's budget by 39 percent and voted to phase out all funding.

"If you told me back in 1996, we would have a Republican president and Republicans in charge of both houses of Congress, and the NEA would be flourishing and would be safe, it wouldn't be possible," Baldwin said. "But we do have some work to do."

Nina Ozlu, government adviser for Americans for the Arts, said one of the key points of the meetings Tuesday would be concern over the proposed elimination of $35 million in arts in education funding in the 2007 presidential budget.

"In the past we've relied on the Senate to help restore funding," she said. "We want the House to take a leadership effort to getting that funding restored."

Americans for the Arts, along with the Congressional Arts Caucus, organized the breakfast event. Other speakers included Tony Award-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell and American Ballroom Theater founder Pierre Dulaine.

The nonprofit, in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, also presented the 2006 National Award for Congressional Arts Leadership to Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa.