Arts & Humanities

With “A Little Help From My Friends” Jonathan Estabrooks Tries to Save NEA, NEH

Joshunda Sanders
Mar 7, 2017

Jonathan Estabrooks may be a Juilliard-trained baritone from Canada, but he believes deeply in the importance of art and arts education in America — so much so that when he learned that funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) might be targeted by the Trump administration, he started a petition at Change.org, emphasizing how central the arts and humanities are to humanity in North America.

“It’s rare that something hits you in a way that makes you say enough is enough,” Estabrooks said of why he was inspired to start the petition, which to date has garnered more than 45,000 signatures and responses from decision makers Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Tom Udall.

I met Estabrooks in midtown Manhattan, where dozens of Broadway performers and artists hailing from as far away as Hollywood gathered Tuesday to record and film a reprised single of the Beatles’ song, “A Little Help From My Friends.” The idea behind the recording was to show that “one voice can become the voice of thousands,” Estabrooks said. He added that in a political landscape that features so much conflict, “The arts and humanities really reach people on a level that can only be holistic but also promotes the idea that unity is not just a Republican or Democratic issue, but a bipartisan one.”

Bryan Terrell Clark, who recently assumed the role of George Washington in the hit Broadway play Hamilton, was one of a number of high-profile performers who came out to support Estabrooks’ mission. “The arts are already extremely underfunded,” Clark said. “To take away from something so important to humanity is egregious. So if I can lend my voice to help the cause, I’m happy to.”

The recording and video will be released on the 30th anniversary of Arts Advocacy Day, March 21st. (All net profits from the recording will go towards Americans for The Arts and their work to protect the NEA and support arts education.) Estabrooks will also deliver his Change.org petition in Washington, D.C. that day.

While he makes it look effortless, organizing a successful campaign around issues as important as this takes a significant amount of time, a lot of coordination and lots of resources. At Change.org, our members are a critical part of the success of petitions like this. Please consider contributing monthly and joining us as we work to move petition starters like Estabrooks and their campaigns to victory.