Monday, February 04, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update XXVIII

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

Mellon Foundation Grant Gives Voice to Seven Plays in New Series
Playbill, 1/22/2008

"A $2.7 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will fuel a new-works series conceived and presented by The Public Theater in association with LAByrinth Theater Company between February and June. . . . The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's five-year grant is one of the largest grants ever received by the Public Theater and will be used, in part, 'to allow audiences to see these important new plays for only $10, cheaper than the price of a movie ticket,' The Public announced Jan. 22."
Some people are whining that this won't be focused on new writers. While I'm not unsympathetic, what, precisely, is wrong with focuses on new plays themselves? And what does "new writers" mean, anyway? Isn't that, in certain quarters, just pissy code for "I'm not one of the usual suspects so I'm not going to get chosen"?

Mayor Seeks Arts District to Revitalize West Street
Washington Post, 1/24/2008

"Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer (D) has unveiled a proposal to establish an arts and entertainment district on West Street in hopes that it would revitalize the area and draw more art to the city. . . . The program would create a 100-acre swath on West Street in which art sites would be exempt from certain city and county taxes."
100 acres in Annapolis strikes me as enormous. This is major stuff, and very exciting.

Preserving arts spaces in Seattle
Seattle Times, 1/25/2008

"The crisis faced by small- and medium-sized arts organizations in Seattle comes down to two words: real estate." Roger Valdez opines, "The city of Seattle and King County's 4Culture services agency ought to develop more aggressive and innovative strategies to preserve and create [spaces for theater, music and dance] in Seattle" by (1) acquiring and redeveloping properties for cultural uses; (2) "zoning that allows more building height in return for on-site cultural use or payment for it elsewhere"; (3) expanding "the transfer of development rights for cultural use"; and (4) creating "an inventory of properties that present opportunities for preserving or creating arts and cultural assembly spaces, and support a program to educate and help arts organizations develop long-term facilities plans."
Um, does anyone think New York City could benefit from this kind of thinking? Maybe, instead of playing patty-cake and kissy-face with real estate developers and, in effect, waving a big middle finger to the small, struggling and homeless theatre groups that dot Manhattan like the measles, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn should, if she really wants to prove her mettle as a potential successor to Bloomberg, propose something just like this. I'm not holding my breath.

Copyright law should distinguish between commercial and cultural uses
Guardian Unlimited (UK), 1/30/2008

"Regardless of who wants to make a new Spider-Man comic, movie or other derivative work, that person has to hire a lawyer, have that lawyer call up Marvel Comics, set up a call or a face- to-face, negotiate a contract, sign it, pay a fee, and report on their ongoing uses, opening their books for auditing and inspection. Sony Pictures can do this. . . . But little Timmy can't do it. He never could. And yet when you talk to comic book creators, they'll tell you that they got started by drawing copies of other peoples' work. . . . [W]e need to establish a new copyright regime that reflects the age-old normative consensus about what's fair and what isn't at the small-scale, hand-to-hand end of copying, display, performance and adaptation. A diverse and extremely sensible group of people are doing just this: the Access to Knowledge (A2K) treaty is a proposal from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)."
Any thoughts on how this would effect theatre, if at all?

Arts & The 'Creative Economy'
WBUR (Boston), 1/30/2008

"As the economy slows down, Massachusetts lawmakers are banking on any sector that's poised to do well: biotech, renewable energy and the arts. Cultural tourism is a two-billion dollar industry in the state, and that's just part of what's called the 'Creative Economy.' WBUR's Andrea Shea reports on the Creative Economy's impact -- how it's measured, and who's reaping the rewards."
Two billion dollars? Good grief. Very impressive.

Arts Council gives 11th-hour reprieve over funding cuts
The Independent (UK), 1/28/2008
"It was set to be the bloodiest cull of the arts for more than half a century. But, in a dramatic 11th-hour reprieve, Arts Council England has been forced to reconsider potentially devastating funding cuts for for dozens of organisations."
And to think the Tower of London was all set for these idiots to be beheaded.

Barack Obama's Arts Policy
Community Arts Network blog, 1/25/2008

Forwarded from the Obama '08 campaign, this statement describes Barak Obama's platform in support of the arts. Planks include support for arts education; an Artist Corps; increased funding for the NEA; promoting cultural diplomacy; attracting foreign talent; and health care for artists.
This is very exciting, although, in a way, it's also a little safe. I think the most interesting part is the idea of an Artists Corps. Anyway, here's some of the more salient parts of Obama's platform.

Create an Artist Corps: Barack Obama supports the creation of an “Artists Corps” of young artists trained to work in low-income schools and their communities. Studies in Chicago have demonstrated that test scores improved faster for students enrolled in low-income schools that link arts across the curriculum than scores for students in schools lacking such programs.

Support Increased Funding for the NEA: Over the last 15 years, government funding for the National Endowment for the Arts has been slashed from $175 million annually in 1992 to $125 million today. Barack Obama supports increased funding for the NEA, the support of which enriches schools and neighborhoods all across the nation and helps to promote the economic development of countless communities.

Promote Cultural Diplomacy: American artists, performers and thinkers – representing our values and ideals – can inspire people both at home and all over the world. Through efforts like that of the United States Information Agency, America’s cultural leaders were deployed around the world during the Cold War as artistic ambassadors and helped win the war of ideas by demonstrating to the world the promise of America. Artists can be utilized again to help us win the war of ideas against Islamic extremism. Unfortunately, our resources for cultural diplomacy are at their lowest level in a decade. Barack Obama will work to reverse this trend and improve and expand public-private partnerships to expand cultural and arts exchanges throughout the world.

Attract Foreign Talent: The flipside to promoting American arts and culture abroad is welcoming members of the foreign arts community to America. Opening America’s doors to students and professional artists provides the kind of two-way cultural understanding that can break down the barriers that feed hatred and fear. As America tightened visa restrictions after 9/11, the world’s most talented students and artists, who used to come here, went elsewhere. Barack Obama will streamline the visa process to return America to its rightful place as the world’s top destination for artists and art students.

Provide Health Care to Artists: Finding affordable health coverage has often been one of the most vexing obstacles for artists and those in the creative community. Since many artists work independently or have nontraditional employment relationships, employer-based coverage is unavailable and individual policies are financially out of reach. Barack Obama’s plan will provide all Americans with quality, affordable health care. His plan includes the creation of a new public program that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health care similar to that available to federal employees. His plan also creates a National Health Insurance Exchange to reform the private insurance market and allow Americans to enroll in participating private plans, which would have to provide comprehensive benefits, issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums. For those who still cannot afford coverage, the government will provide a subsidy. His health plan will lower costs for the typical American family by up to $2,500 per year.

Ovation TV Adds Cultural Partners
Broadcasting & Cable, 1/28/2008
"Ovation TV is partnering with a bevy of cultural institutions and organizations to develop content for the network and enhance marketing for the organizations. . . . The deal gives Ovation access to a vast amount of cultural content and people who are knowledgeable about that content. In return, the local organizations get marketing at a national scale."
Well, sounded very exciting until I read the piece. Then I thought ... same old, same old. Here's the paragraph in question:
Among the organizations participating: the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles Opera, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Harlem School of the Arts, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and P.S. Arts in Los Angeles.
I mean, does the Museum of Modern Art really need the exposure? Really?

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