Sunday, January 20, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update XXVI

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

Community Arts Organizations Call On City For More Funding
NY1 News, 1/16/2008
In New York City, "[a]rtists and leaders of community arts organizations say they are the faces that make up the neighborhoods of the city. But, they say their artistic voices are being silenced by a lack of city funding." Members of a coalition called the Cultural Equity Group aim "to fight for a larger share of the city arts budget, even as the city faces rough economic times."
It's always been my view that part of the problem, which this article doesn't really address (and is, perhaps, somewhat off-topic) is that the organizations in the CIG -- the Cultural Institutions Group, which are mandated by law to receive certain kinds of funding -- eat up resources for more grassroots groups like those being referred to in this piece. The new methodology which the department of cultural affairs is determining arts funding will help, but this article strikes me as a symptom of ongoing concerns.

Artistic renaissance
New Orleans City Business, 1/14/2008
"Two and a half years later, the [New Orleans’] creative community is making an unexpectedly strong rebound from Katrina....The creative sector has historically played a vital role in the New Orleans economy. In 2003, art centers, museums and other nonprofit arts groups and institutions generated 10,000 jobs, $32 million in city and state tax revenue and $300.5 million in wider economic impact, according to a report published in 2006 by the Bring Back New Orleans Commission Cultural Committee. Film studios, commercial theaters and galleries generated another $353 million in wages and sales. Katrina struck a mighty blow, costing 11,000 jobs and $80 million in uninsured damages, according to the Bring Back New Orleans Commission report. . . . By 2006, however, many arts businesses were beginning to regain lost ground thanks to national trends pushing up prices at galleries and auctions as well as increased interest in New Orleans."
I'm shocked and thrilled. But let's not stop there. Let's keep it going.

Thinking right in a left-brain environment
Kansas City Star (MO), 1/12/2008
"MFA is a master of fine arts degree. Yet Lori Diffendaffer says the degree and her musical background prepared her well to handle marketing at Grant Thornton LLP in Kansas City. . . . Douglas G. Viehland, executive director of the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs, based in Overland Park, also has observed increasing demand for right-brain or soft skills to balance the left-brain or hard skills taught in business schools."
The question, though, is to what degree the wider provinces of the business community will really embrace this idea. Great story.

Scrapping funding for culture 'beyond belief'
The Australian, 1/17/2008
"Just as other countries, those in our region included, are ramping up programs designed to project soft power, the Rudd Government has decided to scrap Australia's. A program aimed at enhancing Australia's cultural image internationally has taken the brunt of cuts to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's budget. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner announced this week that more than $20 million would be saved by scrapping the Australia on the World Stage initiative, and 'through reductions in other cultural relations funding.'"
Sigh. Welcome to the US, on the other side of the world. So stupid.

Canada restricts media ownership
Agence France-Presse, 1/15/2008
"Canada's broadcasting regulator announced new rules Tuesday limiting the number of conventional television and radio stations a person may control in the same market, to ensure a diversity of voices. . . . The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said in a statement a person or company will only be permitted to control two media outlets such as newspapers, radio and television stations in the same market. As well, limits were imposed on ownership of broadcasting licences to ensure that one party does not control more than 45 percent of the total television audience share as a result of a merger or acquisition."
Good thing I only control 44% of the market up there, or else I'd be screwed. On a more serious note, how interesting that the Canadians are taking these actions at the same time we seem to be doing the opposite. Oh, Canada.

After the Art Wars
Commentary/ January 2008
Michael J. Lewis reflects on the past and possible future of the National Endowment for the Arts. "In brief, the NEA has withered in a matter of decades from a self-styled instrument of world peace to a cautious dispenser of largesse whose one inflexible principle is that no grant must ever redound to the administration’s embarrassment. Whether it can regain its early ambition—or whether it should try to—is an open question." Rather than fund contemporary artists again, Lewis suggests that NEA might do better to "steward America’s artistic patrimony by supporting museums, exhibitions, and performances of works validated by the cumulative consensus of time."
From the "flagship of neoconservatism" comes this piece, which isn't bad, really, but it is full of rhetoric and historical glossiness and a bit muddled. Fundamentally, I believe the NEA -- which is not, in fact, an endowment -- should be reconstituted as one, thus removing it from both Congressional appropriations and, in so doing, politics. Tony Brown at the Cleveland Plain Dealer raised this a long time ago -- I think in 2002 or 2003 -- and sooner or later it's going to come up again. It's the only way to address some of the long-term questions, concerns and issues raised in this piece. And let's be honest: is there a neoconservative attitude toward the arts? Beyond piling up unapproved books and lighting a match, no, I don't think so.

Blunt to boast of tax cuts, higher spending in tonight's State of State address
Kansas City Star (MO), 1/15/2008
"Gov. Matt Blunt will lay out his vision for Missouri tonight in a State of the State address filled with promises of tax cuts and new social programs." With strong revenues projected over the next 18 months, Blunt is "likely to tout his proposal to boost funding for the Missouri Arts Council and other cultural programs such as public broadcasting and historic preservation by 11.3 million."
Another Republican governor looking for ways to do something seemingly positive in order to bolster his numbers. Pack your bags, dirtbag.

Governor Schwarzenegger Unveils 2008/09 Budget
Arts for LA website, 1/13/2008
"On Thursday, January 11, Governor Schwarzenegger released his much anticipated 2008/09 Budget. As expected, it reveals a 10% across the board cut in many line item allocations. Of particular interest to the arts field is the Arts Education Block Grants, which, aside from the 10%, reduction, remains intact."
Yet California will remain having the lowest spending on the arts, per capita, in the nation. Sigh. I wish Arnie got the economic impact argument, but he doesn't.

Lawmakers tune out pleas to fund the arts
Des Moines Register (IA), 1/13/2008
"The Iowa Arts Council still hasn't recovered from the drastic cuts it took in 2001, when its budget shrank by nearly 40 percent. The Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the council, lost nearly one-third of its staff. Arts agencies in other states faced similar financial problems due to widespread cutbacks following the dot-com bust in the national economy. But while other states' arts agencies are bouncing back - Missouri jumped in the ranks to 33rd from 49th last year - the arts council still struggles with funding."
I think the only presidential candidate who addressed this meaningfully during the caucus process was Huckabee. It was apparently the will of Jesus, you know.

Nutter Hedges On Culture Funding Pledge
Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia, PA), 1/11/2008
"As Mayor Michael Nutter's first week in office draws to a close, culture patrons and employees in the sector may be wondering what happened to his pledge to re-open the Office of Arts and Culture 'between inauguration and the first lunch,' as promised during his mayoral campaign. . . . While Mr. Nutter's pronouncement was seemingly made half in jest while joking with Republican mayoral candidate Al Taubenberger, his aggressive 'Plan to Promote Arts and Culture in Philadelphia' statement, released last March, leaves Mr. Nutter with a set of clearly defined promises to keep with the cultural community."
What a sad thing that politics has reached a point where a week into someone's term it's time for the "gotcha." Granted, Nutter's promise was, um, nutty, but to what degree should we take these things seriously. Sigh.

Plans for annual week of free theatre and opera get Government's backing
Daily Mail (UK), 1/11/2008
In the UK, a new report, "Supporting Excellence in the Arts - From Measurement to Judgment," offers a plan to "give artists stronger influence over British cultural life" and "encourage creative people to stay in the UK." Proposals are to "make all publicly funded arts - from theatre to opera - free for a week each year"; to "end the 'burdensome' targets which stifle artists' creativity"; to have at least two artists or practitioners on the board of every cultural organization; and to offer to "the ten most 'innovative cultural companies' . . . long-term ten-year funding packages to encourage them to take risks."
Reminds me of TCG's Free Night of Theatre program. Would be nifty for that to be expanded, but I think it's unlikely for fiscal and other reasons. Very good story, though.

Tax, transportation accord far away
Star-Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN), 1/10/2008
Looking the 2008 Minnesota legislative which convenes in February, state Democratic leaders predict a "quick passage of a bill that would put on the 2008 general-election ballot an amendment to the state Constitution that would dedicate a portion of the state sales tax to the outdoors and arts."
Will it pass? I have hope for the good people of Minnesota.

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