Episode 146

Art and Politics with Julia Kirt

October 17, 2017

How do we nurture creativity and advocate for arts within our society? Today we’re speaking with community leader and Executive Director for Oklahomans for the Arts, Julia Kirt, who is running for State Senate about advocating for the arts and getting involved in politics to nourish and preserve creativity.

This Episode Brought to You By:
"We count on artists to keep creating and to deal with contemporary culture and life."
- Julia Kirt

Discussed in this Episode

  • How Julia serves artists and creatives and the arts
  • How to become a teaching artist
  • Finding hope in creating positive change
  • The logistics of running for office
  • Cultivating the confidence to run for office
  • How you can best support political candidates you believe in


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Kathleen Shannon 0:01
Hello, and welcome to being boss,

Emily Thompson 0:03
a podcast for creative entrepreneurs.

Unknown Speaker 0:06
I'm Emily Thompson.

Kathleen Shannon 0:07
And I'm Kathleen Shannon.

Julia Kirt 0:10
I'm Julia Curt, and I'm being boss.

Kathleen Shannon 0:16
Hey, guys, if you've been thinking about your role as a creative, but also as a citizen in this political landscape that we're experiencing right now, this episode is for you. We're speaking with Julia current. Julia is an experienced community leader who has led statewide nonprofit organizations for more than 18 years. She currently serves as the executive director of Oklahomans for the arts. Her organization works with the state legislature and municipalities to support public investments and arts education across Oklahoma. Julia is also running for State Senate in Oklahoma's district 30 because she cannot stand on the sidelines anymore. So I hope that this episode inspires you guys as much as it inspired me. You can find all the resources and links we mentioned on our show notes@www.hp being boss club, or sign up for our newsletter, and we'll deliver them straight to your inbox. All right, can we talk about customer service for a second, one of my biggest pet peeves of all time is calling a company only to talk to a robot that doesn't understand what I'm saying. Or being put on hold with elevator music for 10 minutes before I connect with a real human being. And who am I kidding, sometimes that 10 minutes is more like an hour. Fresh books. Cloud accounting has an award winning support team. So not only are you going to be able to invoice your clients and get paid faster, you're going to have a real human being who answers the phone when you call, and they never treat you poorly no matter how dumb your question is. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything. Okay, I'm totally speaking from experience. I've called fresh books with really dumb questions. And they've answered like pros. Today, over 10 million people use and trust fresh books, cloud accounting, including a lot of you boss listeners, try fresh books, cloud accounting for free by going to freshbooks comm slash being boss and enter being boss in the How did you hear about us section? All right, Julia Kurtz, we are so excited to have you on the show. And this is a little bit of a departure from the kinds of creatives we're used to talking too. So most of the listeners of this show are creative entrepreneurs who are trying to make a living doing what they love. And maybe some of them are working day jobs, but have a side hustle as an artist, or as a writer or a coach, something in the creative industry. But I recently I met up with you at a neighborhood block party as our neighborhood does. So you live close to me. And I've always been so impressed with your entire career and what you've done for our community and for the arts in our community. And so you shared some news with me. And I was like, Alright, I got to have you on the show to talk about this. So tell us briefly what you're doing right now. And the trajectory that led you there?

Julia Kirt 3:12
Well, so the big news is that I'm running for State Senate, in Oklahoma State Senate. And this is a this is a big departure. For me, I just announced a couple months ago, the electional. Being to the 1018. I've never served in elected office, I've never run for office. So that's my big departure. But I come from really arts administration and trying to help artists and started with really up close trying to understand artists and their needs. And I ran a group for a long time that served an individual artists with business skills, funding, and kind of platforms to find audiences, and was real focused narrowly on artists themselves and exactly what they needed to kind of reach their next step or be more satisfied. And you know, in our state, a lot of people were disheartened as far as resources, and markets. And then I think we had to figure out what those systems are, that can lead to kind of statewide change, right? So like, we worked all over the state, rural artists, urban artists, all different kinds of artists. And then as I kind of was there longer, it became less about individual artists and more about how can we make this work any artists, anyone who's a creative can stay in Oklahoma thrive, find success, find satisfaction and validation. And so looking more at that systems wide, I got more interested in advocacy, and how do we affect the value that our community and our society places and artists in the arts and you know, how can you make life for creative entrepreneurs and artists better if nobody got us their work, right? And are there ways that we can help with that? So over time, we started doing more and more advocacy related work and then I ended up with Leaving that organization to run a statewide advocacy organization. So we literally are working with the state legislature and cities, trying to find ways to build up arts education, find ways to find funding to help with arts events, arts, activities, artists, as an industry, in our community. So to really try to look at the state level, what can we do? And so that's kind of what got me into direct relationship with politics, I'd say,

Emily Thompson 5:29
I want to know about your relationship with art, though, how did you find or what led you to really pinpointing art an artist as the people and calls that you wanted to support?

Julia Kirt 5:42
Well, I was a creative, you know, but never, I was never on stage. You know, like, I was the tech theater person. I was the stage manager. And I was the editor of the paper, but I was never the best writer. And at the time, I saw that as kind of a failure, like, Oh, I'm not the most creative, I'm not the one that wants to be in the spotlight. But over time, I figured out what I'm good at is helping other people make their best work, and find their voice. And so anyway, that that came later. But in college, I didn't know what the heck I was going to do. And I stumbled into working on a film, and just had a blast. It was so amazing. And I had thought I was gonna pursue film, but came back to live with my brother very briefly, in Oklahoma, which is now more than 17 years ago, 18 years ago, and basically stumbled into Community Arts work and how amazing it can be to introduce the public to art, and then also encouraging artists themselves. And so I ended up even though I'm not an artist, I've always hung around artists helped artists and helped with their projects, I was pretty good at finding the money they needed, finding the support they needed. And hearing their voices. I think someone has a bridge, I kind of stumbled into this path where I'm kind of a bridge that can listen to what artists and creatives need, and also help them translate and find find the resources they need. I don't know, is that too abstract? I went to I went to college, I didn't know what to major in, you know, I got a communication studies degree. I never ever went to Career Services. But I stumbled into a career that's really important to me.

Emily Thompson 7:13
Well, you sound like most of the artists, we know for sure. I have to ask you about, like, what made you stay in this line of work? I mean, there had to have been some outcome that you kept seeing from you putting your focus and energy into it. Either in the community or, or an individual people, what were you seeing coming from the work that you were doing that caused you to want to keep at it?

Julia Kirt 7:36
Well, I think the big thing is just seeing people excited, and trusting and believing in themselves. You know, having people call after not making art for 20 years, like maybe they made art in high school and gave it up in college and they come back around to it. And then you help them get started again, with really finding who they are, and validating the work that they really should be doing. That's the passion that they have. Seeing their satisfaction, seeing the amount how little it really takes to to spur someone on if they've been kind of disheartened. That was huge to me. The other thing is just how quickly in our city and Oklahoma City, we're able to change people's perceptions of young creatives and getting young people to stay in the state when I moved here, really the big talk was about brain drain, and a lot of our communities face that where young people move away. And so we started programs specifically for young artists, like Hey, don't leave, try this out. First, try this out first. And we're not saying people have to stay forever, but maybe there's some opportunities that will help them turn a corner. And so that was one of my most satisfying things was starting young artists programs that have really become important to keeping people here. And I'm not saying that, you know, my organization was the only reason but I think it was a factor for a lot of people who decided to start their own businesses deciding to make art here.

Kathleen Shannon 8:56
Yeah, I mean, I can vouch for that firsthand, you have been such a huge name locally in our community and advocating for artists and for creatives, and truly kind of making it a place that we want to be and I will admittedly say that I have a love hate relationship with Oklahoma and Oklahoma City. But it's one of those things where I do tell people, whenever you hear the word Oklahoma, you don't think of a hotbed of creativity. But one the cost of living is such that it is affordable for artists to live here. So that's one and then two, there is this thriving local community that I see amongst my friends of people who are kind of making something out of nothing I feel like because of you know, even just the landscape like we have to make our own lives the way that we want it to be here in Oklahoma. So I want to talk a little bit more than about Oklahoma specifically, and I probably Thomas, this will apply to those of you who don't just live in Oklahoma. But if you do live in Oklahoma, I think it's time to listen up. So I don't know how much of this is true or not. I'm not like fully on the up and up. But I do know that there have been a ton of budget cuts, specifically to our schools. And I heard a rumor that our arts program was cut at our local elementary, so the elementary school that your child attends the elementary school that my child will attend whenever he's old enough if we're still here. And and I'm curious, I heard, and I want to know if this is true, and how you fill in the gaps of the arts program. So tell me that story.

Unknown Speaker 10:42
Is it true? Not

Kathleen Shannon 10:43
that you picked up where things got cut?

Julia Kirt 10:46
Yeah, I mean, with with a team of people, of course. But yeah, you know, our state has cut education, worse than any other state in the country. So almost 25% has been cut from common education over the last eight years. And as many of you probably know, arts education is one of the first things to be cut. And I really didn't want to believe that I wanted to be kind of a Pollyanna that Oh, people get they understand how valuable it is. But when Oklahoma City Public Schools faced budget cuts, they cut 44 Fine Arts positions overnight. And so then all of a sudden, you had all these schools with either no visual arts or no music, lots of our middle schools and high schools losing drama or losing dance. And I mean, it was fast. And I would say, as an arts nonprofit leader, I was embarrassed, we weren't prepared to help with that we hadn't done pre advocacy to try to make sure people understood the value. And these are decisions being made quickly. So we kind of resolved Well, that's a whole different story. But so at our school, that meant that we had no visual arts teacher all of a sudden, you know, cut completely. And it's so important for our kids. I mean, there's a lot of research that backs up the importance to kids in their development. But it also we know anecdotally how important it is to their day and their quality of life, and their desire to go to school. So we pitched in, I made an arrangement with a local arts nonprofit called Arts Council, Oklahoma City to bring a teaching artists and, and they're matching all the money we raise. So, you know, while I think public institutions should provide arts education, we pitched in and raise private money to match that and make it happen. So our kids still get visual arts. And I think our real goal was, this is a stopgap measure. And we want to show how important it is to us as parents, we know how important it is to the community. And then I also got, besides getting to help our school, keep some visual arts and we have a great, amazing teaching artists, if you've never heard of being a teaching artist consider it because she's a printmaker, and she loves having like half days she goes and does other projects, and has been such an asset to the school. Wait, so

Kathleen Shannon 12:44
let's talk about that a little bit. Because I think that a lot of the creatives listening to this show might be wanting to fill in where they can. So what does it take to be a teaching artists? How does someone go down that path, if that's something that they want to do in their own communities?

Julia Kirt 13:00
Well, it's I mean, it's a whole career path. And you can, I think people can do it full time. They can do it part time, they can do periodic things. Some people only do a teaching artists gigs, say three weeks in the summer, where they might do after schools, and there's all sorts of different structures, it's very flexible. One thing I love about it is the priority is on the person being an artist or working artists, practicing artists first, and educator second. So it's, it's while it's different than a certified art teacher, which we think are incredibly important, but teaching artists or people where they practice their art, and that's what's wonderful. And there's all kinds of different programs. So most of them are with children, although there's also a lot of programs with seniors, and people with disabilities. So I would look like at your local arts council. Or look, if you have a state art agency at your state level, look and see what kind of programs they have for teaching artists. And then you can start looking into it. Usually, if you have some kind of degree that will get you started. And usually they do professional development for you. If you get hired to work in the schools. And they you know, they pay a reasonable wage. A lot of these places you can choose to volunteer your time. But you also can get paid for your preparation.

Kathleen Shannon 14:09
I think it's so important also for kids to see that there are people who are working artists, I remember being a kid in elementary and seeing working artists come in and if it hadn't been for that I wouldn't have known that this was even a career trajectory that was possible, especially if the state doesn't support art and is cutting all the programs. Right.

Julia Kirt 14:29
Right. Yeah, it's Yeah, I think it's made a lot of difference. And around this, like our city has Dance Theater, there's all kinds of different residencies that happen with teaching artists. And one of the things we're trying to do now because I felt, frankly, I felt kind of bad that because I'm connected to the art world, I was able to allow our school to keep arts and can't do that for 57 elementary schools in our area, right. So I worked with local arts, nonprofits, and we've created actually a partnership to connect schools that need are with community groups so that it doesn't have to be around personal connections. So like, that's one of the things I think if you see something that's working, you can make it a system that serves more kids and, and more artists, if you believe in it, amen.

Kathleen Shannon 15:15
I am glad that you pointed that out, too, because I keep thinking that we're really spoiled or privileged just even to have a really tight knit neighborhood that is going to pull in and make education what we want it to be where, you know, government is failing us. But where does that leave all the other kids and so we're even hearing stories right now about air conditioning is being out at schools, or some schools moving to four day school weeks, which is kind of insane for single working moms or those kids who rely on free school lunches to even be fed. Now, they only have four days instead of five. And it really does put a strain on, you know, underserved populations. So anyway, huge thank you for coming in. And not only helping our school, but helping all the other schools in the state.

Julia Kirt 16:06
If you look at arts education across the country, you look at schools that have quality arts education, and you look at schools that don't have quality or education, it totally aligns with equity issues. schools that are not the don't have adequate resources don't get to have things like arts and so it's very aligned with schools that need resources. So I like I think arts education is it's a right for kids within a whole education, they should get arts and creativity in their day. And when you look at you'll see it's it's poor children, and children who don't have resources who aren't getting arts education nationwide.

Kathleen Shannon 16:43
So I mean, this is where I started to get into like, Why Why are people who making? Why are the people who are in charge of making decisions making such terrible decisions? Like do you have an answer? Is this why you're running for politics, like I just don't understand, it blows my mind. And I could probably go down like a whole trail of conspiracy theory where they're trying to keep poor people poor by not giving them access to things that are going to enrich their lives or make it better. But I'm curious to hear why you think that someone decided, Oh, we don't have enough money, let's cut art, rather than like pulling through, like you have to raise the money?

Julia Kirt 17:22
Well, I mean, I have several different theories. And you know, they probably will change if I get an office and see things from the other side. But I do think we like to compartmentalize and we think we can, like break up education into Oh, we're just gonna focus on STEM. stem is where the economy is. And we're gonna focus on science, technology, engineering, and math. As if education is an integrated among subjects, you know, you like you can't take a kid and say, oh, we're gonna take creativity away from you, but you're expected to code computers. I mean, they can't do it. Right. And so I think it's this our desire to like segment things out, and we always think we can perfect children. Like we don't want to, we sometimes don't want to deal with adults, because they're just too messy. But we think if we just perfected education, then we would do this, right. So I mean, I think part of it is that compartmentalizing part of it is market forces. So you know, who has the loudest voices tend to be businesses, who may have a specific agenda for what they want from the workforce, you know, they view education as workforce development, and I think we have to decide as a community, do we believe in education being solely to create workers? Or is it about developing people and giving them opportunities to thrive? And I definitely fall into the opportunities to thrive? Certainly I want people to be able to find meaningful work. But that's not the sole reason, reason for education to me. No, no, that may not be what you asked. But no,

Kathleen Shannon 18:42
I think that that's a very positive answer, I start to go down the path of if you're cutting this, like, really, where are Where are your interests? Where are you making your money? And does it somehow benefit you to keep people down? That's probably the more pessimistic cynical view. But it's easy to go there, especially whenever you live here. And you hear the statistics that like we're the worst state ever whenever it comes to this kind of stuff. But let's kind of bring it back up. Sorry, dear listeners, this is me getting real riled up. But this is why I'm so excited to have you on the show, too, because I think that with your focus being through the lens of art, it is like such a positive focus and almost like a good hook for getting into politics. So I'm kind of curious what made you decide to run for state senate?

Julia Kirt 19:32
Well, I you know, I've been around the state capitol for the last few years during our advocacy. And so we're trying to advocate for the industry of the arts, so arts events, arts, activity, arts education, and I think that experiences made me see the machinations at the Capitol is something that I can understand. I can I can I can get through there, but I really started thinking I need to get off the sidelines and get more involved. And I think after the election, I felt like, certainly in my friend group It's very polarized. And we basically there have people who have gone completely apathetic, or people who become so irate and zealous that they can barely see straight. And I felt like there's a third way for me here, like I just kept thinking, this is not what I need to pitch in. But how am I pitching in, I just didn't feel called the protest. But I felt like I need to pitch in here, right. And I started hanging out with a friend who ran a group called Sally's list, which is a local group that cultivates female candidates. So all of a sudden, I had this resource person, I went to a workshop that was about advocacy and running for office. And at the end of the day, after listening to women all day long, who were amazing elected officials, I thought I can, I can totally do this, I will do this someday. And I just felt confident that the kinds of things they were talking about in terms of passion and interest and willingness to serve the community were things I could do. But I really thought it'd be like five years or more down the road, I was thinking, Oh, you know, when my kids are teenagers, I kind of had this imagination. And literally, the next week, I had coffee with my state senator for my work. And he said he wasn't going to run again. And I just thought, well, I've got to decide now. And this is the time. And as soon as I made that decision, just things really came together. And I think it's that you know, hole where you kind of find a path. That's right. All of a sudden, all these people start pitching in, I have all these friends that are willing to help or have experience in politics and suddenly just seemed like the right direction to go. Not easy. You know, I've certainly have friends try to talk me out of it. Especially being in a state where I will be in the minority in terms of a lot of my opinions. You know, do I still see a value in being the voice for people at the Capitol? And I do you know, the more actually, the more I talk to people, like I've been knocking on doors, in neighborhoods, and the more I talk to people, the more I feel like, Yes, I need to do this, I need to be the voice for these folks. And it's a lot of people who don't trust the decision making this happening, that don't see a way that we can change. And really, all I'm saying right now is like, I can't give up on this, like, I'm not gonna give up on this, I will work for this. So I don't know, it's just become like something that obviously now I'm like, why didn't I think of this sooner, but this is a perfect time for it for me.

Emily Thompson 22:13
I want to know where that hope comes from. Because I'm definitely one of those people who I haven't gone either ends of the spectrum in terms of being you know, completely just not giving a shit not reading it, because I can't deal with it or like, I'm also not preaching from the mountaintops in any way. That is, I don't know, over zealous by any means. But you are doing something that is taking a ton of your resources like time and money and energy and all of those things, to do something where you know, you are potentially greatly outnumbered or at least like going up against some mindsets that are completely different from yours. So like, tell me where that hopes coming from? Because I'm totally admiring?

Julia Kirt 23:00
Well, I mean, I've seen, I mean, I think it's part of its family, you know, like I was brought up in a household where, you know, we faced adversity, and my mom was totally the example of lucky don't give up on things, you know, you you've got to live, you got to get out there you got to serve. And, you know, that's so that's deeply seated in my early experiences. And my brother has a physical disability, he's like the most stubborn, hardworking guy ever. So like, I feel like that's ingrained in me, it's just that I have no right to sit to the side, I need to jump in here and help, right. And then I'm working for the Oakland visarts coalition. So getting to work with artists, seeing like, small towns, where one artist in that community can completely change that town, like huge amounts of hope, you know, one person can change the whole idea of what our community is, and what's possible in our community. And so I've seen the ability to make that change. And then being a part of a statewide group where we grew the ranks, like grew, we have 1000 members, you know, like 1000, we had we tracked 6000 visual artists in our state, and it was growing all the time. So like, to me that gives me hope, because there's always an opportunity to build and I was constantly surprised I can say this now that I'm not there, but how little it took for us to really give people hope, optimism and trust about their path and about connecting with other artists. It I don't think it takes that much humans want to believe they want to trust and I think that so I mean, the way I see it right now is that I feel like better communication, honesty, civil discourse, informed decision making even from a few people can help us shift things you know, I know my experience with having a few of my representatives really be thoughtful and speak honestly. Helps me trust our state more. So I mean, I just can't give up on that.

Emily Thompson 24:52
Good. Good don't

Julia Kirt 24:56
Oh, and like now running for office like so many people pitched in so many. And I think that just keeps fueling me is like, okay, all these people think it's possible to make change because they're willing to pitch in to, you know? Right. So

Kathleen Shannon 25:09
I actually want to talk a little bit about running for office and some of the logistics behind that. So first, will you still have a full time job doing what you do now? as well as serving on the senate? Or would that become your full?

Julia Kirt 25:22
Yeah, I'll, I'll leave my job. My board is supportive of me keeping my job through the campaign. But if I got to be a senator, there would be just too many conflicts of interest. With actually serving, it's a part time legislators in theory, so it's like, only meets about half a year. But people do so people do have other jobs. I don't I haven't worked that out yet.

Kathleen Shannon 25:44
I love that you're concerned about conflicts of interest serving on an arts board.

I'm sure that you can all get what I'm getting at.

Emily Thompson 25:58
We'll all just finish that sentence for you, for sure.

Kathleen Shannon 26:02
But I love that I admirable I love that integrity. So second. And my other question is, how do you cultivate the confidence to run for office? I think that some people are even scared to even have an opinion on politics, because they don't feel like they're informed enough. Even I myself, it's not like I'm reading every single bill that's being drafted. And I almost feel like I should in order to even have an opinion or say anything about anything. So how would you respond to that? And how did you cultivate the confidence to overcome maybe that kind of negative self talk as far as like, well, I'm no expert in this to actually make a go for it.

Julia Kirt 26:39
You know, I'm facing this one daily. I really am. I mean, I just this morning was like, going through that negative self talk of like, I don't have anything to say, I don't have anything to say, I'm not somebody like I never been someone who like make statements. Like I just don't, that's not the way I operate. Everything's too provisional to me, I don't want to put out an essay, I want to like have a conversation, and especially the issues around Charlottesville and white supremacy, you know, I have strong opinions that that's not okay. But I don't feel like I'm the one to go make a pronouncement about it. Right. So that made me like, well, Then am I meant for elected office, because everyone expects you to be in the spotlight on this stuff. But I think there's another I keep telling myself, there's another way, I don't have to be the one pontificating to be making to be valuable in this this role. So I mean, I'm grappling with it daily, I think when I first came up with the plan, I mean, it took me a while to feel confident enough like a major imposter syndrome stuff. And it's taken competent people who are in elected office telling me you are a great candidate, we're so glad you're running. And then as people literally I know, this sounds hokey, but as people send money in, like, I've gotten donations from, like $5, to the max, which is 2700. It is hugely confidence building, because that means these people think I can do it. And so I'm trying not to have so much reliance on external validation. But that's an important part of this, you know,

Kathleen Shannon 28:07
you know, there's a direct correlation between this and even being your own boss, right? I think that a lot of people think like, Oh, well, I don't have a business degree, or I don't have a Political Science degree in your case. I think that if a bunch of other dipshits can run for office without having any experience or knowing what they're doing, like, why not get some badass people like you who support the arts and have, you know, a good heart in office,

Julia Kirt 28:36
you know, what they found is that women expect to have what they feel under qualified. women feel under qualified men feel qualified. So when they ask women and men, have you ever considered running for office, women significantly fewer say that they have, and it's because they don't feel experienced enough. Whereas men are like, Well, yeah, I can run for office, right? And this is a clear difference in the research and women win at the same rates as men if they run, but not nearly as many women run, right. So I mean, looking at that has been helpful to me, because it's like, Okay, well, this person with much less experienced for me can feel confident than I should kind of get over myself and be okay with it. And when I've taken anytime I try to pontificate on an issue I don't know about. I'm so much better off when I just say what do you think, like, the other day, I had a guy I was talking to about wind energy, he's in the industry, and I started to try to give him my opinion. And then I was like, why am I I just said, What do you think we should do? And it was such a great conversation. And so to me, it's that like, what's, like good leadership anyway, is like listening and drawing out other people's opinions, you know,

Emily Thompson 29:45
as opposed to just hearing your own voice coming out of your mouth consistently. Right? Totally agree. Well,

Julia Kirt 29:52
unlike nationwide, the numbers are really low for women in office, and it's because they don't run and in Oklahoma, we are one of the worst. in the country, we have 13% of our state legislature is women and I really feel like our legislature should represent should reflect our communities. Right. And that, you know, that's one big thing that hasn't been tried is having even number of women and men in elected office. And what they're finding now that there's more women in office is that women do a good job with collaborating, and do a good job with making tough decisions. Just some of those differences.

Kathleen Shannon 30:27
Um, I want to speak a little bit more directly to artists. So you do have a lot of experience in working with artists, and one of the things that you said earlier is that it doesn't take a lot to give them hope. And some of it might just be being seen, like knowing that someone has your back. And right now, a lot of our audiences feeling incredibly discouraged by politics, as artists, as makers as creators. And they're kind of at that point that you're describing where they're completely apathetic, and it's taken to their art, or they're completely irate, and they can't focus on making art. So what advice would you give to artists keep creating and keep making in spite of what's happening on the broader political spectrum?

Julia Kirt 31:14
Well, you know, I think we count on artists, to keep creating and to deal with contemporary culture and contemporary life and whatever you're making, of course, this in context of your life and out of our communities. What I've seen nationally is some really positive things around artists getting engaged. And we've seen a big upsurge in artists really taking the lead on social justice related issues in communities. And I think that's even more galvanized now. So looking for causes and things you believe in and pitching in, and knowing that artists are welcome. Even if people don't know how to ask creatives for their skills they're needed. I was in a meeting lately, where there's a poverty taskforce locally, it's like the task force to end poverty, like what an amazing Task Force, you know, and they were like, We would love to have artists sitting on that taskforce. And these artists in the room were like, you know, like, you need me, you know, that's so great. And I think that you can pitch in if that's the kind of thing you want to be a part of. What else? You know, one thing I've noticed is that all of us think that nobody understands our career. And I know that's especially pronounced with artists and creatives. And I think part of that is because there's not the societal value in terms of renumeration.

Kathleen Shannon 32:26
I think, what does that mean? If you don't if

Julia Kirt 32:28
you like, if you are in a career where maybe you aren't appreciated, but you get paid? Well, I think it's easier to feel like okay, well, my work is still legit. But if you both are in, like as artists, generally misunderstood, and usually undervalued, in terms of societal value, like price, pricing, payments, inclusion in economic decisions, that kind of stuff. And people don't appreciate your work, I think. I think it's extra hard. But so I think every artist is an advocate, you're an advocate for your own career, you're an advocate for your work. And I think that plays out in everything you do, and valuing your own work and valuing who you are and what you make, and your role in communities is really important. I have a good friend who grew up in a real fundamentalist household, where creativity was not valued at all at her church, it has taken her 20 years to get past that in terms of valuing herself. And now she is changing her churches that she's involved with now, to understand artists and try to include creatives. And I think that kind of thing can happen in any kind of an environment, you know, church being real specific for her. But it's like, not assuming anyone else is going to understand your work and knowing that you have to advocate for yourself, whether that's with your family, whether that's with your community, or whether that's politically. You know, I see at the state capitol, every sector is there advocating for their sector. No one assumes that, oh, you understand oil and gas or Oh, you understand teachers there, they're telling those legislators why their work is important. And I think artists in the arts community have to do that too.

Emily Thompson 34:11
Right. I it makes me wonder how artists got to that place and must be like a very deeply instilled, like understanding or like, deeply instilled. I don't know mindset that our work is less important than other work, whatever that other work may be, because it is something that we see across the board with our creative with our creative listeners. And it's something that I know we've struggled with, and everyone who's doing something creative, as, as an artist or a maker, or just doing creative things, struggles with an end it just makes me wonder where that began. And can we start breaking that really soon, please?

Kathleen Shannon 35:00
Do we know where that began? Because in the Renaissance art was highly valued alongside the other, you know, science.

Julia Kirt 35:08
Yeah, I think Industrial Revolution, America, and I did it. I know, Americans for the arts put out a really great book. And I wish I had read it more recently, because I could give you a quote, but they did this great analysis of America's societal values over time, and how that related to art and artists in our communities. So I could I could share a link with you guys, if people can read it. I'd love to see that.

Kathleen Shannon 35:32
Yes, sure. A link, and we'll include it in the show notes, for sure. But then my question is, did you take any insights from that, or even from your own work on how we continue to value art in a major way again, and what I'm hearing you say is to not only value yourself, which is what I think a lot of our creative entrepreneurs are already really trying to do by like pricing their work appropriately and charging appropriately and marketing themselves appropriately. But what I'm really hearing you say the key, the top key message that's coming out for me is if you feel undervalued, go become an art teacher in a school, even just for a week. And you're going to not only start to value your role as an artist to individual children, but you're going to start to value your role as an artist within your community. So you know, just that idea of stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about someone else. And that's instantly going to make things feel a little bit better.

Julia Kirt 36:35
Yeah, or even pitching in, like I mentioned about that poverty, task force or some issue outside yourself. You know, I think the arts, I do think it's important to be connected to other artists and to other creatives. But I think also, when can artists pitch in on other societal issues and community issues, and, you know, be at your neighborhood association, all the way up to eradicating poverty and racism, you have a role you could play and I think that makes a lot of difference. And presenting yourself I mean, like you already saying, presenting yourself as a professional, but also presenting yourself as a community resource, in areas you care about, I think makes a big difference for the profession. And I found that if, if like chambers or community planners don't consider the artists as assets, they can be made to understand artists as assets. If you're there and showing what your skills and abilities are, I forgot to mention back on the candidacy thing related to artists is that there's this group that's creating an artist Candidate School. So if any artists are like having a little inkling they might be interested in running for office, there's this group called Fractured Atlas that is doing a free Candidate School for artists, people can apply for wonderful Oh, cool.

Emily Thompson 37:49
And this this conversation, it brings me to thinking like this self value thing, how it's almost like a vicious cycle of you, not valuing yourself, keeps you a minute away and not practicing your craft or going out into your community and gaining the perspective that you can then bring home to create better art that will like cycle you up, as opposed to continually cycling yourself down. I think that's a really great, I don't know, that's just that's bringing me to a good place with understanding how this can start being solved. Because Because I definitely see it as I see art even as a way for humans to process the shit of life basically. So you know, we take in all of this nonsense, whether it's, you know, environmental, or really close to home, or political or whatever. And then we process it through creating art. So we're turning something ugly, into something pretty, it's a way of a way for us to to process process, not great things and turn them into hopefully beautiful things. And if we're not doing that, and it's getting stuck and stopped up, we're not creating anything fantastic from the shit in the world. So I'm just gonna keep thinking on all of that, because you've given me lots of things to sit on.

Julia Kirt 39:10
I would also add, just don't be scared of talking to your elected officials. I think, you know, Mayor, city council people, county official state officials need to know you're there. If they don't hear from you, they just don't know that you're in their community. Like we showed them statistics about what we know about creative businesses, what we know about arts, nonprofits, but you can be in touch with them about whatever issues it can even just be introductory, just to say hey, I want to make sure you know i'm i'm here in your in your community. And here's what I do. If you ever have questions about this type of work, let me know. And just being a resource to elected officials can make a big difference.

Kathleen Shannon 39:45
So I could see this happening twofold because I think that a lot. A lot of people right now are saying email your officials call your officials and it kind of feels like it can fall on deaf ears like it feels like it's just not moving the needle at all, but one thing that you said early You're, for example, if you want to be a teaching artist in one of your local schools, it's not that you're calling up the school and being like, Hey, I'm interested in this, like, who do you even call the principal. And that's kind of how I feel. Sometimes whenever it comes to responding and politics, you said to contact your local arts coalition, and if Oklahoma has one, I can guarantee every single state has some sort of artists coalition, or resource for you guys.

Julia Kirt 40:27
I've gotten to hang out with those, the statewide advocacy groups, and there's like, 4243, across the country. So like, that's a really good resource about arts advocacy, some communities have super proactive advocacy groups, and you can at least learn what they're up to locally.

Kathleen Shannon 40:42
Yeah. And so get on board with those people. And those are going to be your people. You guys already speak the same language. And then I the way I imagine it is, then you become a little army for the arts advocacy group, and you'll have more strength than numbers there were then you almost probably have your arts advocacy representative, someone like you, who is able to have coffee with a representative and saying, Hey, here's what my people are experiencing. And here's why you need to listen. And I've got x number of people in my group. So that's like, kind of the most inspiring message to me is to join up with your local arts advocacy group. And I want to be clear about who who can sign up for this? Is it just painters, like I'm thinking of painters in my mind, but could it be anyone from a writer to a dancer to a musician, most arts advocacy groups, it's

Julia Kirt 41:31
anyone who cares about the art. So you know, like, I'm not an artist, but I care about arts education for my kids, I can I can be a part of it, too. So yeah, I think most most of those groups want all people who care, I would look also at the national level at the arts Action Fund. So amazing national advocacy group, and that's the voice at the federal level for artists in the art sector.

Kathleen Shannon 41:53
I want to ask you a little bit about your political platform, and how much of it is fueled by art specifically? Or do you have anything that you specifically want to change within the arts? Should you become our state senator,

Julia Kirt 42:08
you know, I'm arts are not in the top few issues that I'm talking about, mainly, because that's not on top of mind for most voters. So that's not going to be where I'm gonna lead with. I'm talking about education, and quality resources for education. And to me, that includes art said, and I've certainly talked to people about it, but that's not what I'm publishing. And I think that's a matter of like, I don't want to both convince them, that art is important to our communities, and have to convince them to vote for me. So I sometimes feel a little weird about that, certainly all over my bio, but it's not number one, I don't want to issue like a 10 point plan, per se, because I feel like I need to be responsive to the needs of the community as I go. I mean, I know we need state funding for the arts. That's an important all around our state. So that's, I would be a huge voice for that. And then I would want to include the arts in all this kind of industry and sector analysis, making sure that people when I think about small businesses include creatives. So I mean, I think those are the two biggest things. And then education just I mean, that whole whole child education, and and higher ed,

Kathleen Shannon 43:15
so would you say that education is really your number one point that you want to tackle?

Julia Kirt 43:20
Yeah, education is number one. Yeah, adequate funding and consistent policies? Because we've had a lot of change. I think the legislature wants to meddle. And this has happened at the national level, too, with what's testing and what's accountability, and where does the money go? And I think we need consistency. You know, I have a kid in fourth grade. And he's had three sets of standards at school since he started, so we can't even see the results of it. So yeah, education is number one. My second one is just a big point is about funding vital services, making sure that our state has the resources we need to support our citizens, basic services. And then like what Health Access, you know, foster children, we've we've cut our foster care system with cut oversight of daycares and safety. We've cut senior meals, I mean, these are, to me, fundamental, vital services and education falls under vital. And then the the last thing I've really emphasized, which is really just about informed and civil decision making. We've had a very rancorous, kind of rude couple of years. And I feel like at the very least, we need to act nicer to each other and listen to each other and get informed when advocates give us information. So I mean, starting there, and I feel like that can be the groundwork for everything else.

Emily Thompson 44:43
I have a question about those cuts really quick. Are the cuts across the board, like just the entire budgets are cut or are things CUT TO PUT elsewhere and if it's elsewhere, where is it going?

Julia Kirt 44:56
Oklahoma's budgets down a lot and I wish I could name I think It's a billion down from five, six years ago. So it's been across the board and the board. Yeah, percentage wise, the arts have been some of the top but sadly, so is higher education. Nationally, the National Endowment for the Arts has been pretty consistent for years and has been the same as humanities and Institute for museums and libraries. So at the national level state kind of consistent but low, consistently low.

Emily Thompson 45:28
Right. Okay. Gotcha. Didn't know how mad I was supposed to be.

Julia Kirt 45:32
Yeah. So states, you can you can actually look there some comparison, some states have had big cuts or big increases, and it's really volatile. I think arts funding can be kind of volatile, like in California, when they're going through their budget crisis, they cut their state arts agency down to like a million dollars for that huge state. So now they've been having these great increases in their Arts Council. But it's mainly because they've cut it so so small, like, meanwhile, you've got communities where like, a county in Pennsylvania might give out as much money as the National Endowment for the Arts. So like, there's a lot of local communities that support the arts even better than their state or national. Well, good.

Emily Thompson 46:11
And I feel like moving forward, because we can't depend on the government to supply us with all these super basic needs, that I feel that it does have to become more community based. And I don't see it as something that can be, you know, completely solved moving forward, I think it does need to come back more local. But that means that our actions have to change to support that, whatever that may be.

Julia Kirt 46:39
Well, I've seen, you know, like a recent success to me, as Kansas City has had a very proactive artist advocacy. And in their last mayor's race, they organized like candidate forums, and they gave a lot of information. It was mayor can't mayoral candidates, and they got promises to create a cultural plan. So like when this new mayor came in, got elected, in part with the help of artists, he created a cultural plan that then and they set up exchange programs, they set up grant funding, they set up loan funding specifically for artists. And it was all because artists had been at the table throughout the election saying what they cared about, that they ended up being at the table when plans for the future of the city were being made.

Unknown Speaker 47:24
Nice, because they were showing up. Right. Right.

Unknown Speaker 47:27
Absolutely. Next

Kathleen Shannon 47:28
question is how can we best support candidates who are running whose platforms we really want to get behind?

Julia Kirt 47:37
Well, what I found is, you know, certainly any amount of money and I think I've I now that I'm a candidate, I don't think I can say this, but I wish I had before, which is anyone you see complaining about corporate influence over politicians should be giving money to candidates. And it really doesn't have to be a lot like I've been shocked how like, I have some friends who set up recurring gifts of $10 a month. And that makes a huge difference to campaign. And if we don't have that kind of broad base small support, that'll never replace business or special interests. So if there's any way you can give us even if you said look, I'm going to invest $100 a year in candidates, that will actually make a big difference. You'd be surprised how few people are giving to political candidates, volunteering, each campaign has their own volunteer base. And, you know, campaigns are run on volunteers. So if you're willing to do that, that makes a huge difference. And then even if you can't pitch in on a campaign, ask good questions and inform your candidates. I've been surprised how few people have Top of Mind issues when I go to talk to them as a candidate. Like I'll say, you know, what do you care about? What are you worrying about? And they're kind of like, well, that's your chance, you know, that's your chance to speak up when someone's a candidate. Like we're all ears. We're trying to hear what's going on. So, like, tell us, so if some anyone tries to talk to you as a candidate, definitely,

Kathleen Shannon 48:53
I mean, God bless the person who comes knocking on my door.

Julia Kirt 48:57
A lot of people just don't answer, which is okay, I figure if they don't answer, then they've got something going on. That's okay.

Kathleen Shannon 49:06
That's another thing I'm going to talk to you a little bit about is just that kind of door to door effort. And this is the kind of thing that still blows my mind, like in an age of technology, like you're still literally knocking on doors. So what's that experience been like?

Julia Kirt 49:23
It's such a trip I really before I ran for office thought this was just some kind of hazing endeavor that they did to candidate so you'd be prepared to be in public office. And I do think that's part of it, frankly, is like, Are you willing to talk to everyone? And although I'm not actually talking to everyone yet, and I'll tell you more about that, but because later you are serving everyone and anyone who calls in needs to have your ear and needs to have an important voice with you. So in some ways, it is kind of preparation for being an office. But yeah, it's amazing to me, so our districts are so gerrymandered, meaning that they have been chosen. The boundaries have been chosen for political power and This is no mystery like it's everybody knows this is how it's done. So if you look up, Oklahoma State Senate District 30 boundaries, you're going to be you're going to laugh, because it's the craziest shape. It makes no sense. It doesn't connect neighbors to neighbors. So we have to go knock doors, because it's so hard to target that specific of a neighborhood. Right. And the other thing is, so this is kind of a sad truth about politics is that candidates are mainly trying to talk to people who already vote, like you're not going and knocking on every door in a neighborhood. Because if someone doesn't vote regularly, history shows that they are unlikely to show up at the polls. So vote, I should have said number one vote. And even if even if you feel under informed vote for anything you can. And I think it's kind of sad, because like if somebody is 25, and they register to vote, and they don't vote, they probably won't hear from candidates very much. At least not door to door not getting as many mailers because because it's public record whether you voted or not.

Emily Thompson 50:59
So I mean, it really becomes quite literal, that if you're one of those people who don't vote because you don't think you're going to be heard, you will never be heard. If you don't vote Yeah,

Julia Kirt 51:08
you got to step in, you got to step in simple as that

Kathleen Shannon 51:10
pro tip register with absentee ballot, even if you have your polling place around the corner. What this does is it makes you aware of when issues are being voted upon. Yeah, it gets mailed to you. It's great. My husband did this recently, I haven't actually done it, I always go down to the polling place and stand in line, but he did absentee ballot, it gets delivered to our house. And I was like, Wow, I didn't even know that something was coming up. I didn't even know that we had an opportunity to vote on this. So that's a really great way to make it really super easy.

Julia Kirt 51:45
So I'm in consent states are further along on having like online registration. Even other easier ways to make us make it easier to vote. Oklahoma's behind on that not something I certainly would want to work on. My predecessor in the Senate District spent a lot of energy around trying to make it easier for people to vote because there's no reason we should make it so hard. We don't there's usually early voting, there's absentee voting, like there's a lot of ways to do it. It's just to me, it's about prioritizing that it's important enough to do it.

Kathleen Shannon 52:14
Yeah. And I like that you mentioned that because it's easy to feel like your vote doesn't matter. But even just to get into the system, it does matter.

Julia Kirt 52:22
Right? I mean, even if it doesn't, like change the outcome of the election, it does, it gets you in a system. And you know, they use this voter registration. I mean, there's voter numbers as an indicator, like for instance, the our school school district had a bond election last year, they decide whether we value our schools based on whether we show up to vote for that stuff. And it's kind of sad when you only have, you know, 3% of people show up to say, I believe that schools need basic building improvements or something. So yeah, that's judged. And then, you know, sadly, it kind of reinforces the people that are already engaged with voting are getting are going to be re engaged. So but if you step in there, as soon as you vote, you're on that list of somebody who's voted. So even if you don't want to talk to candidates on your doorstep, you might get that opportunity.

Emily Thompson 53:09
Just think about a local election that I will not get to get into. But it does make me laugh. Continue.

Julia Kirt 53:16
Oh, so you asked me what it's like to knock on doors. So Oh, yeah.

Kathleen Shannon 53:19
What's it like?

Julia Kirt 53:20
It's a trip. I think, for me, I mean, this whole thing has been a real eye opener in terms of trying new things, and opening myself up to these experiences and people has been really wonderful. I mean, there's a huge vulnerability in it that I'm valuing. It's I keep, I keep in my head, I do a lot of yoga. So I keep thinking about like yoga. Anytime I get really uncomfortable. I'm like, I'm also growing through this process, right, you know. And so I kind of, like dread it before I go out, but then when I'm out, when I get to talk to people, it means a lot to me. And there's good experiences and bad, you know, I'm talking to people who have all kinds of different opinions and all kinds of different life stories. And so to me, it's like taking me so far outside of my bubble. It's been amazing and really valuable, no matter what happens to learning about myself and about other about my community. Julia, thank

Kathleen Shannon 54:13
you so much for joining us. where can our listeners find more about you and how to help your campaign?

Julia Kirt 54:21
Well, my website's Julia Kirk comm which is J UI. Li KI rT Comm. You might look also at local groups that support candidates. So like Sally's list is our one in Oklahoma that supports people who so it's not partisan. It's focused on a certain issues, like education and access to health care. And nationally, there's a lot of groups like that that are like systems for helping candidates. And then if you're an artist thinking about running for office, even just an inkling look at that artists Candidate School at Fractured Atlas, I'm kind of excited they're doing it and think it's really great.

Kathleen Shannon 54:56
So cool. And finally, this is a question that we ask all of our creativity. entrepreneurs that come on the show. But I think it applies to you as well. What makes you feel most boss?

Julia Kirt 55:06
I mean, I feel like every learning opportunity is the big one. And that's might be real small little things like with my kids to these kinds of system wide understanding the world issues. I mean, I think the opportunity to learn and the opportunity to grow. I mean, I just feel really privileged that I get to do that.

Emily Thompson 55:26
We have gotten so much amazing feedback over the years from listeners about how our podcast has helped them start to grow and uplevel their businesses. So we want to celebrate you. Here's the boss we're celebrating this week.

Unknown Speaker 55:39
Hello, my name is Krista and I am being boss. I'm a joyful living educator and content creator at a life in progress.ca. And this week, I'm celebrating taking a leap into moving away from the familiar Holistic Health client work that I've been doing to open up space for coaching women in finding their voice and vision and also doing the writing that I really love. Your podcasts have inspired me to speak with more confidence to pitch my work and also to pitch my book to new possible agents after walking away from one this spring because he was not honoring my time. Thank you so much for the work that you're

Unknown Speaker 56:17

Kathleen Shannon 56:18
If you're feeling Boston when to submit your own boss moment or win go to WWW dot being boss club slash I am being boss. This episode of being boss was brought to you by fresh books, cloud accounting, thank you to fresh books for sponsoring us and you guys can try it for free by going to freshbooks comm slash being boss. Thank you so much to our team and sponsors who make being boss possible our sound engineer and web developer Corey winter. Our editorial director and content manager Caitlin brain, our community manager and social media director Sharon lukey and are being countered David Austin, with support from braid creative and indicia biography,

Emily Thompson 56:57
do the work. Be boss, and we'll see you next week.