Thursday, November 06, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update LXV

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of November 5, 2008:

DCCA aims to attract more patrons with no admission
Delaware News Journal, 10/31/2008
"The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts has eliminated paid admission, effective Saturday, a move officials hope will attract a wider audience during a time when many people are cutting back on discretionary spending. Maxine Gaiber, executive director, first considered shifting to free access Sunday when at a conference she heard a speech by Ford Bell, president and chief executive of the American Association of Museums. He reminded his audience that 35 percent of museums in America charge nothing for admission."
I wonder what kind of metrics are out there on the effectiveness of this policy. How is the shortfall in earned income compensated for? I wonder, too, whether this can be applied to theatre -- outside of Free Night of Theater.

Obama May Fight Media Concentration, Expand Access to Internet
Bloomberg News, 11/5/2008
"President-elect Barack Obama will try to use his office to hinder media concentration and to increase local TV news coverage, objectives that have stirred resistance from industry groups. The Illinois Democrat, who will succeed George W. Bush on Jan. 20, 'is going to push for a more open, more diverse media,' Gloria Tristani, a former Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission, said in an interview. . . . Obama has also made broader Internet access a goal and insisted that broadcasters focus more on public service."
Can you say "anti-trust"? I can. I can say it long and loud and clear. And it's about bloody time.

A new vision for arts district
Baltimore Sun, 10/30/2008
"City officials plan to unveil a multiphase plan today to transform a 100-acre arts and entertainment district north of Pennsylvania Station into a $1 billion 'cultural crossroads' for Baltimore over the next three decades."
Curious as to John Waters' involvement in this, if any. Could be an interesting opportunity for Baltimore's favorite sun. If you read this story, you'll note how housing is included and perhaps what amounts to live/work situations -- both very smart. Would like to see more specifics on theater, but perhaps that will be coming with time.

The Social Impact of the Arts
Palgrave Macmillan, 2008
From the publisher: 'The Social Impact of the Arts: An Intellectual History starts with today's heated public debate about the 'intrinsic' and the 'instrumental' in the arts, and then locates this debate within a history of ideas that goes back over two thousand years to classical Greece – Plato's Republic and Aristotle on catharsis. In tracing this history and revealing that there is nothing new under the sun in arguments about the arts, the authors show how the meanings of some key concepts – among them, "the transforming power of the arts", "art for art's sake", "the arts are good for you", "the arts and cultural identities" – have evolved over time, as parts of a very long-standing argument. The aims of this book are ambitious: to nourish public debate, to reconnect us all with a rich tradition of thinking, to show how certain ideas turned into commonplace beliefs, and in the end to encourage "a more nuanced understanding of how the arts can affect people."
Sounds...arty. But valuable.

Arts education threatened by budget cuts, say teachers
Providence Journal (RI), 11/2/2008
"School administrators across Rhode Island are facing tough financial decisions — as well as mounting pressure to boost performance on state tests in English and math. In many cases, districts are cutting music and art programs, calling them luxuries they can no longer afford, say arts educators who gathered yesterday at a conference at West Warwick High School."
Shortsighted silliness from one of the most liberal and enlightened states in the Union. Sad. And a portent of what is to come from elsewhere, I'm sure.

Filmmakers become DIY distributors in self-defense
Los Angeles Times, 10/30/2008
"The do-it-yourself movement has transformed music, home improvement, political action and even comic book publishing. Now the DIY cause is starting to upend movie distribution, and is no longer a scarlet letter that filmmakers labored to hide. . . . [T]he strategy gives a film's creators not only final say over how their movie is brought to audiences but also lasting ownership of its copyright."
Fabulous. I support this.

Obama Tapped Hal Prince, Michael Chabon to Craft Culture Plank
Bloomberg News, 10/31/2008
"Senator Barack Obama writes poetry, gets props from Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z, and is the first White House contender to include a far-reaching arts plank in his platform. The proposals range from increased support for arts education and the National Endowment for the Arts, to changing the federal tax code for artists. 'It is unprecedented,' said Robert L. Lynch, president and chief executive officer of Americans for the Arts, a Washington- based arts advocacy group, explaining that no presidential candidate in recent times has addressed cultural issues in such detail."
Someone who is not a cultural imbecile -- or interested in using the arts as part of a wider and ultra-leveraged culture war -- has been elected to the presidency of the United States. My, my, can you imagine? Might the NEA become an actual endowment -- thus securing its future by dint of depoliticizing it?

Schwarzenegger seeks tax breaks for movie and TV production
Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2008
"Arnold Schwarzenegger wants millions of dollars in tax breaks for film and television companies that shoot productions in California, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Times. The proposal, part of his plan to stimulate the state economy, is similar to Schwarzenegger's previous bids for such a tax break. The Legislature has rejected those efforts in the past. . . . Film industry officials say the tax credits are essential to keep California competitive, especially as the value of the dollar rises and Canada once again becomes an economical place for production companies to locate. California is one of only 10 states that do not offer financial incentives to movie and television companies."
California really has two issues: It takes the film industry for granted and it more than likely cannot afford to give the tax breaks. But again, the argument for economic activity as a result of such tax breaks has to be made through very good metrics, not philosophical back and forthing.

After the Building Boom
Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2008
"The economy's swoon and Wall Street's woes are taking a particularly specific and tough toll on art museums. The art boom of the past two decades, and the resulting skyrocketing costs of acquisitions and insurance, led museums to staff their boards with more than a few deep-pocketed executives from real-estate firms, financial institutions and hedge funds -- industries that are now among the hardest hit. Plus, the tough times come at the tail end of a nationwide boom in museum expansions, and many of those glamorous buildings and new wings are not yet paid for. A handful of major institutions financed those expansions with bond issues that face the same climbing adjustable interest rates that are bedeviling homeowners."
Talk about bubbles. To pay for this on the back end, museums are going to start having their own equivalent of fire sales. Mark my word. If I had a few million, I would be out scouting art right now.

Amid turmoil, corporate giving seen steady
Washington Post - Reuters, 11/4/2008
"Requests for help from top U.S. corporate charities has risen sharply, but spending in 2009 by some of America's largest foundations is likely to be flat as the companies behind them weather the global financial crisis. Spending by the philanthropic arms of Wells Fargo, Bank of America and General Electric has risen in recent years, but all three foundations told Reuters their 2009 giving was likely to hold steady next year."
We should be so lucky for such philanthropy to remain steady. I suspect that the truth is there are going to be clear and painful declines.

Exploring the philanthropic potential of social networking
Charleston City Paper, 11/5/2008
"Networking has always been an important means of garnering financial support for nonprofit arts organizations. But against a backdrop of a Wall Street meltdown, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the most expensive presidential campaign in history, reaching out has become much more than a process of tapping tried-and-true donors. Increasingly, nonprofits like the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Ballet Theatre, and Spoleto Festival USA are tapping the philanthropic potential of social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Long term, Charleston's arts organizations say they hope young professionals will be encouraged to support their programs monetarily after learning more about them on the web."
Of course, most nonprofits with any sense are beginning to look at how to use social networking or Twittering or whatnot. The question is to what degree there is institutional resistance.

Fund-Raising Angst Backed Up by 2008 Declines in Gifts, Survey Finds
Chronicle of Philanthropy, 10/30/2008
"More than one-third of American charities say they have collected fewer dollars so far this year than in 2007, nearly double the share that saw such declines last year, according to a new survey. What’s more, almost half of the charities that say they rely heavily on end-of-year gifts expect donations to be down for the rest of the year, the survey found."
I'm telling you, next year is going to be hard. Very hard. Prepare now.

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