Kevin Spacey credited federally funded arts programs for his successful career and called for the federal government to continue its support for public arts programs.
The Academy Award-winning actor made his remarks Monday at the 24th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Spacey delivered the speech to a coalition of organizations who are in the to the nation’s capitol this week to participate in Arts Advocacy Day.
He related his own story of growing up as a child from South Orange, New Jersey, from a modest background with a lack of self-confidence. He got a major boost at age 13 when he was asked to perform a scene in a play and actor Jack Lemmon praised his performance and encouraged young Spacey to pursue his dream of becomming an actor.
“I would never had had that experience If I had not grown up at a time when there was enormous support for the arts in the United States,” Spacey said.
Spacey is artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre Company in London. Through his production company Trigger Street Productions and the Kevin Spacey Foundation, he supports new artists.
“If you’ve been successful it is your obligation to send the elevator back down,” Spacey said. “There’s always someone just below waiting to be invited up.”
During the speech, Spacey dramatically related various examples of how the arts have made a positive impact on American society. He also unveiled the trailer for “Shakespeare High,” a documentary film he is producing that is set to screen at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City later this month.
The film follows three high schools as they prepare for the 90th annual teen Shakespeare contest
Organized by Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization for advancing the arts, the annual Arts Advocacy Day brings together a cross section of cultural and civic organizations to lobby on behalf of continued support for public funding of the arts. Ovation, a television network devoted to arts culture is one of the event’s sponsors.
After participating in advocacy training sessions on Monday, the organizations plan to visit congressional offices Tuesday to meet with lawmakers.
This year’s advocacy day comes at a time when lawmakers are battling over what federal programs to reduce or eliminate toward taming the the national debt.
A Congressional hearing set for Tuesday featuring testimony from Spacey, Alec Baldwin and other Hollywood actors on the importance of the arts to the nation and the need to retain current levels of funding to the National Endowment for the Arts, has been postponed.