Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update XXV

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv.

Culture Track 2007
LaPlaca Cohen, 2007
A survey on U.S. participation in culture, defined to include traditional arts, pop culture, historic attractions and national parks. 74% of respondents said they attended at least one cultural activity each month. Overall, younger audiences (18-29), college graduates, and those with incomes over $75,000 participated at a higher rate than other groups. The survey also explored motivations for participation, barriers to participation, and implications for cultural organizations.
This is an interesting study, but one might argue that the sample -- 3,815 total respondents, including 1,093 "frequent attendees" (29%, meaning once a month or more) and 2,722 "infrequent attendees" (71%, meaning less than once a month) is too small. Still, some findings:

  • Younger audiences (ages 18-29) average 2.6 cultural activities per month
  • College graduates average 2.5 cultural activities per month
  • Those with an income over $75,000 average 2.4 cultural activities per month
  • Consistently, "Particular Exhibitions/Performances" are the leading motivators to participate in specific cultural activities (68% overall)
  • Four out of Respondents’ top five motivators are related to content (specific subject or genre) and convenience (time, location, and cost)
  • Infrequent Attendees are more price-sensitive than Frequent Attendees

Bohemian Rhapsody
New City Chicago, 1/8/2008
Dan Silver, Lawrence Rothfield and Terry Nichols Clark of the University of Chicago "have recently completed a groundbreaking study on just what it takes to create a 'scene,' whether it be bohemian or otherwise. The enterprise, termed the Cultural Amenities Project, is a product of the UofC’s Cultural Policy Center. . . The three men hoped that a crude count of amenities could be used to help guide policies with the aim of augmenting a neighborhood’s cultural strengths in ways that could help stabilize communities, attract businesses and spur economic growth. What the three ultimately ended up with, however, was a much more complicated quantitative rubric by which they could judge a neighborhood or city based on a number of categories, which, when compiled and averaged, could then be compared to other cities and to ideal neighborhood types, such as 'cosmopolitan,' 'urban' and, yes, 'bohemian.'"
Here is the salient quote from the above article:
"The bohemian scene exhibits resistance to traditional legitimacy, affirms individual self-expression, eschews utilitarianism, values charisma, promotes (slightly) a form of elitism, encourages members to keep their distance, promotes transforming oneself into an exhibition, values fighting the mainstream, affirms attending to the local, encourages identification with primordial ethnic roots, attacks the abstract state, discourages corporate culture, and attacks the authenticity of reason."

Pricey city drives out artists
amNewYork, 1/4/2008
"It's a common refrain among those who work in the creative industries and follow the cultural scene closely: New York City, which has incubated a century of the world's leading artists, musicians, and performers, will cease to be a place where art is made....New York's cultural primacy isn't simply a matter of self-image. Arts and culture account for a huge part of the city's economy -- nearly $21 billion and as many as 160,000 jobs, according to a recent report by the Alliance for the Arts, an advocacy group. Kate Levin, the commissioner of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, says the city is aware of the problem."
Come on, people! Geez, Louise. It's real estate, real estate, real estate. And the reporter on this story is effectively hamstrung by space. After Levin notes that the city is aware of the problem, there's another paragraph:

"Everybody has an issue with affordable housing, and government can't legally build housing just for artists in the city of New York," Levin said.
Really? How much better would the article have been if the reporter had the ability to write about what should have been his follow-up question: Where in the legal code is artist-specific, government-built housing banned? And why does Levin automatically, as if programmed by aliens, assume that the one and only solution is to legally build housing for artists? Does she honestly mean to suggest that the city of New York can provide tax breaks for corporations to stay in New York but cannot provide economic incentives to landlords for subsidizing artists' rents? This. Is. Bullshit.

Calif. Advocates Push Arts Funding Bill
BackStage, 1/4/2008
"According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies' March 2007 report, California currently ranks 50th in the nation for state arts funding. A new bill -- Assembly Bill 1365 -- is designed to boost that amount to a whopping $1 per person per year....Introduced by California State Assemblymember Betty Karnette in February 2007, A.B. 1365 will provide $35 million in annual arts funding by redirecting 20 percent of existing sales tax from retail sales of works of art from places like ceramics and musical-instrument stores to the California Arts Council....The bill currently sits in the California State Assembly Committee on Appropriations and needs to go to the Assembly floor by Jan. 31, or it will die."
Great work by my Back Stage colleague Nicole Kristal on this story.

Can Foundations Take the Long View Again?
New York Times, 1/6/2008
The shift from unrestricted to project-specific foundation funding in the 1980's and 1990's has "forced grantees to sacrifice long-term effectiveness for short-term efficiency," starved grantees for operating funds, and even knocked "many promising nonprofits out of business." Three recent reports conclude that "to maximize the impact on grant recipients, foundations 'should make larger, longer-term operating grants' of unrestricted funds that can be used to support the organization and its overall mission, not just specific projects or programs."
Right on, baby. Now who is going to make the first move?

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