Thursday, October 23, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update LXIII

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of October 22, 2008:

Indie Films Hit the Web
Wall Street Journal, 10/18/2008
"Independent filmmakers are known for taking risks with their art, but many are wary of digital distribution. Now, as perceptions shift, they're going online in growing numbers. . . . Behind the shift: a glut of movies jockeying for theater screens."
The question is whether this saturation will lead to better products, increasing audiences or increasing revenues -- or a race to the economic bottom.

Mellon Foundation Gives Millions to Help Playwrights
New York Times, 10/20/2008
"As contemporary American playwrights know all too well, getting a play produced is a formidable task. . . . With that in mind, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recently awarded nearly $10 million to playwriting organizations and theaters in the hopes of getting more fresh voices before an audience. Although Mellon has regularly contributed to theaters around the country for years, the recent grants are a result of a three-year study into the particular problems new plays encounter, said Diane E. Ragsdale, the foundation’s program officer for theater and dance. It turns out that developing plays is not the problem. Producing them is."
Some of the argumentation here is, to my mind, not new and not insightful -- the problem has always been producing plays. Were it anything otherwise, such organizations at the Theatre Guild, back in the day, would have never needed to be created. Still, this philanthropy is of a tremendous scale and I approve of it heartily. Congratulations to the recipients -- and, most important, to American playwrights!

Economic downturn worries the arts
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY), 10/19/2008
"The [New York] Council on the Arts wants to make sure that arts remain in conversations about economic and community development — especially in light of the recent economic downturn — and is conducting 14 forums across the state to make its point. . . . State arts council officials are worried that the sharp economic decline over the last month will leave the environment volatile for the nonprofit sector. Therefore, facilitating communication between the arts and economic forces in New York is more important than ever."
Will "leave the environment volatile"? Hasn't it been for years now? I'm not criticizing the effort so much as questioning if this is an acknowledgement that should have been made a long time ago.

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council to Run Artists’ Space on Governors Island
New York Times, 10/19/2008
"The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council has been selected to run an artists’ studio and exhibition space on Governors Island that will include a year-round artist residency and weekend events. . . . The selection of the council is the latest effort to transform the 172-acre island in New York Harbor into a destination that is an integral part of city life."
Great idea and glad to read of it. I still think that eventually there will be a casino on Governor's Island, too, but if balanced out with creative endeavors, it might be an interesting draw for city residents and tourists alike.

Arts groups struggle with less money amid state cuts
Cape Cod Times (MA), 10/19/2008
"Although the Massachusetts Cultural Council budget — and its many grant programs — wasn't touched by Gov. Deval Patrick's cuts last week, hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked for cultural projects were slashed from the Office of Travel and Tourism budget."
So sad, especially since Massachusetts is one of the most generous states when it comes to arts appropriations.

Oakland Arts Funding Threatened
Voice of Dance, 10/21/2008
The Oakland, Calif., city council had threatened to "cut all cultural funding, public art staff positions and the entire Oakland Cultural Funding Program's grants budget, in order to cover deficits in the city budget." But arts supporters crowded into the Council's October 21 meeting to voice their opposition to the cuts. "Ultimately,the council decided to restore the $1.1 million budget for Oakland arts grants funding, but still eliminated jobs in cultural and art programs."
Ugh. California -- the whole state -- just makes no sense when it comes to arts appropriations. Oakland, if I'm not mistaken, is relatively poor beside nearby San Francisco, so you'd think it would be understood what an investment arts appropriations really are. Maybe things are worse that I even know.

Plans for SLC Broadway-class theater includes other arts groups
Salt Lake Tribune (UT), 10/17/2008
"Salt Lake City has choreographed how to finance downtown's Broadway-class theater, and how's this for a curtain call? There would money left over for other arts groups. Mayor Ralph Becker hopes to broker a deal to funnel sales taxes from the LDS Church's $1.5 billion City Creek Center to a state arts fund that, in turn, could finance the construction and operation of a 2,400-seat Broadway-style playhouse."
Smart move. An oasis of blue-state thinking in this traditionally hyper-red outpost.

Proposed legislation billed as means of luring film industry into state
Cleveland Plain Dealer (OH), 10/17/2008
"Ohio remains one of approximately 10 states without a film-incentives program." To lure more film activity to the state, '[t]he governor's office is ready to include tax credits for film production in the state's next biennial budget in 2009, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher told Plain Dealer editorial writers and reporters last month." House Bill 196 "would grant a 25 percent income-tax credit to individuals who invest in television or film productions that have budgets over $300,000."
And with certain states beginning to question the efficacy of film incentives, this might be a good time for Ohio to finally get in the game.

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Art said...

Hi Leonard,

Massachusetts is definitely improving in the appropriations, for a while we lagged in per capita lists, but I think we are up in the top ten now.

With regards to the Mellon announcement. As you point out, there is a kind of disconnect in the article. Supposedly there was a three year study that tried to focus on particular problems.

Are you aware if the foundation has anything current or forthcoming to outline this research or the findings?

Don't get me wrong; I am stunned at the generosity, but my excitement is equaled by my curiosity of what they found out over the course of three years.

Leonard Jacobs said...

I'm not aware, actually, but it would be a great article if someone wanted to write it. I'd be as intrigued as you, in fact!