Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arts Advocacy Update LXXX

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of March 11, 2009:

Hollywood goes to Washington
Variety, 3/9/2009

"The Motion Picture Assn. of America will amp up its Washington lobbying efforts on April 21 with an all-day symposium to 'educate top national policy and lawmakers about the economic impact of the motion picture industry.' The event, to be held at the Donald Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, mirrors a similar effort in 2007, which brought an array of studio execs and creative types to the nation's capital to make the case for the industry's contributions to the national economy.... This year, the event will focus on the industry's ability to provide middle- and working-class jobs."
So very Hollywood -- who knows who they'll trot out. Why doesn't the American theater -- or music or dance or any other discipline or genre -- try to do the same thing? Isn't this half the issue with the arts in America -- a lack of knowledge and awareness among senators and representatives? Instead of running around and trying to perpetuate aging business models, why not something like this?

Artists are losing jobs fast and furiously
Los Angeles Times, 3/4/2009

"The country's dire economic situation is hitting artists hard -- harder than other professionals. According to new research announced today by the National Endowment for the Arts, working artists are unemployed at a higher rate than other workers, and at a rate that is rising more rapidly than other professions.... Artists are unemployed at twice the rate of professional workers, a category in which artists are grouped because of their high levels of education."
To paraphrase Shakespeare, "The first thing we do, let's unemploy all the artists."

Taking Artistic Liquidities
Harvard Crimson (Cambridge, MA), 3/5/2009

"There will be no starving artists at Harvard. Just over a week after University officials announced that the endowment—the largest in higher education—fell a precipitous 22 percent in a four- month period, the University-wide Task Force on the Arts called for ambitious plans to bolster the place of arts on campus. The committee proposed the construction of major new arts facilities and sweeping changes to the undergraduate curriculum and graduate programs. "
Great article, although, once again, it's really difficult to find tears for Harvard.

Arts center stalled? Call it a stadium, Scott Randolph says
Orlando Sentinel (FL), 3/6/2009

"State Rep. Scott Randolph has a novel idea to try to save Orlando's delayed performing-arts center: Treat it like a sports stadium. The Orlando Democrat has filed a bill (HB 1183) to give performing-arts centers in Florida that draw 150,000 or more paying customers the same $2 million-a-year sales-tax rebate that many professional sports stadiums and spring-training sites get from the state."
Works for me. That's smart thinking.

Congress Passes $155M for NEA and NEH
Americans for the Arts website, 3/11/2009

"On Tuesday [March 10], the U.S. Senate passed the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act. The bill includes a significant $10 million increase for both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which sets their budgets at $155 million each. The legislation also increases the budget for Arts in Education programs at the Department of Education to $38.16 million."
Yay! Oh, and how much of that $10 million won't go to previously funded NEA grantees, hm?

Corzine's 2009 budget would cut $5.2M in arts funding
Star-Ledger, 3/10/2009

"Gov. Jon Corzine today proposed cutting arts funding to $17.1 million, a drop of $5.2 million that would reduce arts support to 2004 levels.... The arts council's $16 million budget is the minimum called for in the hotel-motel occupancy tax, the dedicated revenue stream that funds the state's theaters, music groups, dance troupes and art museums.... The 2003 law that created the tax, which also supports the state's historical commission, cultural trust and tourism, includes a 'poison pill' provision that eliminates the tax if the arts council portion drops below $16 million."
It's just stupid. It's such a small cut and it will hurt the New Jersey economy far more than it will help. Then again, Corzine may not be reelected anyway.

Hard times no license to rob the arts
The Oregonian, 3/7/2009

"With a tumbling economy, declining attendance and tapped-out donors, things are hard enough for the arts, historical museums and other cultural institutions. That's why it's all the more disturbing to see Oregon lawmakers rummaging for money in the only statewide source of arts funding, the cultural trust.... Lawmakers must find a way to restore the $1.8 million taken from the cultural trust as part of the budget-balancing agreement approved by the Oregon Senate last week," says The Oregonian Editorial Board.
Notice the stern language. Good for the Oregonian. Make those people hang their heads in shame. Blithering fools for trying to raid the Cultural Trust.

NJ bill would lift nonprofit spending restrictions - AP, 3/8/2009
"With stocks in freefall and the economy sliding, nonprofit organizations have seen their endowments plunge in value, hurting their ability to feed the poor and run museums, among other activities. But the losses have created an unexpected consequence: Some groups can't use the funds that remain. New Jersey law prohibits many nonprofits from spending certain pools of money if the funds have decreased from their original value. The law, adopted by most states, has restricted the groups' spending as values of stocks and other investments have fallen this past year. But a new bill being tossed around by a New Jersey Senate committee could soon make the off-limit funds accessible."
This is actually as important, and perhaps more so, than whether Gov. Corzine slashes NJ arts funding or not. Very glad this legislation may get through. Arts groups need it, badly.

Philly mayor supports arts groups even amid cuts
Google News - AP, 3/8/2009

"Arts and cultural organizations are often dismissed as a frivolity, the first to go when the budget ax swings even as supporters tout them as powerful economic engines that employ workers and support businesses far beyond the cliche wine-and-cheese set.... But Philadelphia's mayor, in a departure from his predecessor, believes the arts are key to generating revenue and strengthening the community."
Here is a nifty and important excerpt from the story:

"Nutter cited figures from a recent Philadelphia Cultural Alliance report that arts and culture in the region employs 40,000 people and generates more than $1 billion in economic activity every year. More people visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art annually than a season of Philadelphia Eagles' home games, he added.

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund's budget for fiscal 2009 was cut by 24 percent (from $4.2 million to $3.2 million) from the initial spending plan. However, that's still an overall budget increase from the previous fiscal year. The nonprofit entity allocates funds to hundreds of local organizations."

Seattle arts report: Corporate gifts down most
Seattle Times, 3/10/2009

A new report says "[t]he recession is hitting Puget Sound arts and cultural organizations hard," with endowments, contributions, and gifts from foundations and individuals all dramatically reduced. The study, commissioned by the Seattle Mayor's Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Seattle Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and 4Culture, "identified ways donors could collaborate to help the arts sector, such as setting up a revolving loan fund and a collective investment for technology. Donors could also help support the arts without spending any money — by cutting application paperwork, extending current grants another year, offering loan guarantees or lines of credit, and encouraging arts groups to share resources and work with nonprofits outside the arts."
All good ideas. I'd love to know what the economic toll of excessive paperwork is and whether it varies by region or state and to what degree it can be quantified.

Study: Corporate giving to dip in 2009
Philadelphia Business Journal (PA), 3/4/2009

"The economic downturn will have a major impact on corporate philanthropy in 2009, according to a Conference Board survey of 158 companies about their planned changes in corporate giving programs. About 45 percent of those surveyed had already implemented a reduction in their 2009 giving budgets and 16 percent were considering it, while 35 percent said they would make fewer grants in 2009 and 22 percent are considering doing the same..... The biggest increase will come in volunteerism, with 45 percent of respondents reporting a resources increase in that area. Arts and culture will most likely see the biggest drop, with 34 percent reporting a decrease in resources devoted to the arts."

White House Rethinks Tax Hikes
Wall Street Journal, 3/5/2009

"President Barack Obama is meeting strong Democratic Party resistance to his proposal to reduce tax deductions enjoyed by upper-income Americans and could be forced to drop or modify the idea. Mr. Obama in his budget blueprint last week proposed a cap on itemized deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations to help pay for his health-care overhaul. The plan would cost wealthier taxpayers about $318 billion in new taxes over 10 years, according to government estimates. But after objections from Democratic lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appeared to suggest at one point Wednesday that the administration was willing to consider dropping or modifying the proposal."
Because, after all, the wealthiest 1% of the American people have suffered so very disproportionately in the last eight years...

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