Saturday, October 04, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update LX

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of October 1, 2008:

Accessibility experts: Cultural institutions are not inclusive of everyone with disabilities
Chicago Tribune - AP, 9/26/2008
Accessibility for all visitors "is a challenge for cultural institutions throughout the United States as they focus not only a building's physical accessibility, such as wheelchair ramps, but on making programs inside more inclusive so that people with all types of disabilities can enjoy them. This means incorporating new technology, hiring sign interpreters, changing exhibition placement and even rethinking seating arrangements at events. . . . But much still needs to be done, experts said."
Not trying to start anything by saying this, but what is the status regarding disability access for the Broadway theatres? Are they all officially up to code or does their landmark status (by and large, they're landmarked -- either exterior or interior or both) mitigate the public accessibility laws?

Congress OKs bill to improve broadband access
Washington Post - AP, 9/30/2008

"Congress has passed legislation that will require the government to keep closer tabs on who has access to the Internet and who does not. Supporters hope the Broadband Data Improvement Act will help policymakers better identify areas of the country that are falling behind when it comes to high-speed Internet access. The bill passed both houses of Congress, with the Senate approving a final version Tuesday on a voice vote."
Closer tabs on access or closer tabs on what they're accessing when they access? If you know what I mean...

Arts adding $121 million to local economy
Ventura County Star (CA), 9/30/2008
"Ventura County's arts organizations have grown dramatically over the past dozen years, making them a major player in the economy, a report released Monday says." Among the findings: "Almost 160 nonprofit arts groups are expected to bring more than $121 million to the county's economy in 2008, gauged by taxes, employment, and the value of goods and services. Arts- related businesses in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and part of San Luis Obispo County produced nearly $2.1 billion in benefits."
The question, of course, is to what degree the publications, trade and otherwise, in Los Angeles and the rest of California will awaken to the potential rich harvest of advertisers and readers as a result of this commercial and artistic blossoming. Oh, right, advertising directors don't read...

Mayor kicks off new focus on arts and the city
Providence Journal (RI), 9/25/2008
"[Providence, Rhode Island] Mayor David N. Cicilline announced that the city is embarking on a cultural plan to explore the weaknesses, strengths and challenges facing the city’s arts and cultural community. . . . The objectives of Creative Providence: A Cultural Plan for the Capital City are: - To serve as a catalyst for city and statewide conversations about the evolution and sustainability of the arts.- To recognize artists, art administrators and cultural institutions as leaders who already shape the current environment.- To provide emerging arts leaders and experienced professionals with a forum to develop fresh ways of enriching the arts."
This is more important stuff than we know, for while Rhode Island is the size of Sarah Palin's political experience or fluency in civics, it is disproportionately active in terms of nonprofit arts. Here is the website for Creative Providence. Give it a read.

Up-and-Coming Neighborhoods: Great Buying Opportunities
BusinessWeek, 9/23/2008
"Want to know where the next hot real estate markets will be? Watch where the artists are living now. . . . Artists turned around Soho and the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, and then Brooklyn's Williamsburg in the 1990s. Now you'll find them in Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, and Astoria in Queens. Similar trends are occurring in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Miami, and Austin, Tex. selected 15 urban neighborhoods that artists have discovered and where homeowners could see returns in coming decades."
Of course, I live in Astoria and I could have told you that back in 2003, when I moved here. But Bushwick, Brooklyn? Oh, baby, baby. Where's my Kevlar vest?

Congress passes bill to help save Internet radio
Washington Post - AP, 10/1/2008
"Congress has cleared the way for a potential agreement intended to save the emerging Internet radio market from a crippling hike in copyright royalty rates. The measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and now heads to the president, would green-light an anticipated deal between Webcasters and SoundExchange, a nonprofit that collects royalties for recording copyright owners from Internet radio stations and other digital radio services. The two sides have been negotiating new royalty rates following a March 2007 ruling by the federal Copyright Royalty Board that dramatically increased the rates that Internet radio stations must pay artists and record labels. Internet radio stations say the new rates -- which most but not all are paying -- could effectively put them out of business."
For my commentary on this story, I humbly ask you to watch the following, simply replacing the word "radio" with "Internet."

'Orphan Works' Copyright Law Dies Quiet Death
Wired, 9/30/2008
"Lost in the House of Representatives' push to pass $700 billion bailout legislation is the so-called Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008. Late Friday, the Senate passed the measure and sent it to the House, where it landed dead on arrival." The House reportedly won't take up the measure, at least not until after the November elections."
This is going to be contentious. The whole "orphan" concept hasn't, in my view, been explained adequately to the artistic community. I imagine the reception to this idea will be surprisingly mixed. Indeed, how many artists die intestate?

Michigan GOP wants to drop biz taxes, cap film credit - AP, 9/26/2008
"A Republican-controlled Senate committee on Thursday voted to phase out a surcharge on Michigan business taxes over three years and to cap new tax breaks used to attract moviemakers to the state. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm immediately opposed any effort to rein in the film incentives."
Bright. Real bright. No wonder Michigan's economy is going the way of the Edsel.

Tax amendment taking back seat on ballot
Star-Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN), 9/27/2008
"The campaign to pass a state constitutional amendment to raise taxes for the outdoors, the environment and the arts may come down to whether voters see it as a handout to rich opera patrons or as boost for pastimes like fishing and biking loved by average Minnesotans. . . . Opponents argue that the campaign for the amendment -- which calls for a three-eighths percent increase in the state sales tax to raise some $276 million a year -- is being driven by the state's "liberal elite" to provide a 25-year taxpayer subsidy for the arts institutions they have long supported.
Here, too, the economic argument for the arts isn't being made, or at least isn't being made properly. Does biking and fishing drive the economy as a concert does? I'm being reductive and pseudo-snarky here, but the point -- and all the statistics, compiled during this decade and the last -- bear this out conclusively. This is about politics and the long-awaited and fully deserved destruction of the Republican Party, specifically the let-'em-eat-cake cruelties of Reaganomics.

Economy Expected to Take a Toll on Charitable Giving
New York Times, 9/29/2008
"To the list of big losers in the turmoil on Wall Street, add these: some big foundations. Several prominent foundations in the New York area have been particularly damaged by the recent collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns and the difficulties of the American International Group. The biggest among them is the Starr Foundation, which held 15.5 million shares of A.I.G. in May. Its assets have fallen by at least $1 billion since the end of 2006, or by nearly one-third of its total value at that time."
That's nothing. Foundations determine their giving by three-year rolling averages. So, just like what happened after Sept. 11 -- funding decreased starting in 2003 and then 2004, just wait for 2010 and 2011.

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