Monday, December 22, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update LXX

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of December 11, 2008:

Hosts, producers urge L.A. City Council to retain public access TV
Los Angeles Times, 12/4/2008
In Los Angeles, City Council members are "struggling to keep the plug from being pulled on Los Angeles' public access TV network. New cable company franchise rules threaten to cut off the city's four channels reserved for public, educational and governmental uses. . . . A new state policy that takes effect Jan. 1 will allow cable companies to pay cities a fee instead of producing public access content for their channels. . . . [O]fficials say about 45% of the do-it-yourself shows are devoted to talk, 35% to religion, 19% to music and variety and 1% to sports."
There you go. Save the economy by restricting free speech. Something in the LA water, as usual.

Met Opera Board Rolls Out Recession-Busting $25 Discount Seats
Bloomberg News, 12/8/2008
"New York’s Metropolitan Opera, with ticket sales lagging and the economy in recession, said it will offer some of its priciest seats for weekend evening performances at $25 each for the rest of the season. Starting today [December 8], the opera company will hold a weekly drawing on its Web site,, for orchestra and grand tier seats that usually sell for $140 to $295, Met General Manager Peter Gelb said. The discount tickets are available only for Friday and Saturday evening operas and are subsidized by $3 million in donations from the Met’s board."
Sounds great but also desperate. I'm hoping Bloomberg News will do a follow-up at the appropriate time to see how well this goes. Betcha $5 the Met won't bother to disclose the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of this idea. Sad, either way, that times are so tough.

The Fight Over Broadcasting's 'White Space'
Gotham Gazette, December 2008
Joshua Breitbart reviews the controversy surrounding the FCC's decision to permit "public access to the unused part of the television band known as white spaces." The plan is for white space to be used for "faster, cheaper wireless broadband access." But that could have a negative impact on theaters. "Musicals and other live performances now use wireless microphones that operate in the white spaces. Producers and performers worry that other devices operating in those frequencies could cause interference."
This is a long piece (you have to scroll down due to the way it's uploaded on the site) and it's a bit wonky -- if you're unfamiliar with the issues herein, it'll seem like so much gobbledygook. There should have been more quotes from theatre folks, too -- and there are plenty of them out there, as the community has been dealing with this issue/question for several months now. All that said, nice piece.

Economic Stimulus Should Create Jobs for Teachers, Artists, Service Workers
Beyond Chron (San Francisco, CA), 12/9/2008
Randy Shaw proposes that President-elect Obama should make an "investment in the nation’s 'human needs' infrastructure" alongside his proposed plan to invest in "brick and mortar" infrastructure projects. "Why shouldn’t the stimulus package fund arts groups and schools to hire at least 100,000 cultural workers? These workers can paint murals, teach art, dance, music, and theater, and provide the level of art support that existed in the United States from the New Deal through the Carter Administration."
Aha! See, if you scroll back a few posts, I made precisely this point -- and unwittingly suggested the same number -- in response to Randy Bourscheidt's new essay on the Huffington Post.

Write Now
The New Republic, 12/8/2008
"Barack Obama sounds like he wants to reach back to the New Deal's Works Progress Administration to jump start the economy with an economic stimulus proposal featuring infrastructure repair. If so, it may be time for the man who would be FDR to take a look at another successful--but largely forgotten--jobs program from the Depression era: the Federal Writers Project."
Well done! Here's a provocative paragraph:

The Federal Writers Project operated from 1935-1939 under the leadership of Henry Alsberg, a journalist and theater director. In addition to providing employment to more than 6,000 out-of-work reporters, photographers, editors, critics, writers, and creative craftsmen and -women, the FWP produced some lasting contributions to American history, culture, and literature. Their efforts ranged from comprehensive guides to 48 states and three territories to interviews with and photos of 2,300 former African-American slaves. These are preserved in the seventeen volumes of Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves.

Arts community braces for budget news
Philadelphia Daily News, 12/6/2008
In Philadelphia, "Mayor Nutter pledged his support to the Philly artistic community during a meeting in City Hall last night, but said cuts to arts funding may not be over. . . . Cultural organizations have taken a hit under Nutter's cuts to eliminate a $1 billion hole in the city budget over the next five years. The budget for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund was reduced from $4.2 million to $3.2 million this budget year - which remains an increase over the previous year." City funding for several cultural institutions was also reduced. "But Nutter said he remains optimistic that Philadelphia will continue to be a destination point for artists and art-lovers. To assist him in that goal, Nutter also yesterday announced a 40-member Cultural Advisory Council, who will provide guidance to the mayor on arts issues."
So how does $1 million in savings meaningfully address a $1 billion deficit?

Arts groups face financial uncertainty
Louisville Courier-Journal (KY), 12/7/2008
Although some degree of cuts were to be expected, Andrew Alder says the Louisville mayor's 50% reduction in support for arts groups "counts as a body blow to progress made over recent years."
Sad, because the arts community in Louisville really could thrive if given the opportunity to do so.

'Meet the Press' transcript for Dec. 7, 2008
Meet the Press, 12/7/2008
In an interview with President-elect Barack Obama, Tom Brokaw asks, "Who are the kinds of artists that you would like to bring to the White House?" Obama lists "jazz musicians and classical musicians and poetry readings in the White House so that, once again, we appreciate this incredible tapestry that's America. [That] is going to be incredibly important, particularly because we're going through hard times. And, historically, what has always brought us through hard times is that national character, that sense of optimism, that willingness to look forward, that, that sense that better days are ahead. I think that our art and our culture, our science, you know, that's the essence of what makes America special, and, and we want to project that as much as possible in the White House."
Just the idea that a president or president-elect was asked a question about the arts -- and answered it intelligently -- gives us the one thing we have lacked for more than a generation: hope. But we must keep the pressure on.

Ohio House approves tax credit for film industry
Cleveland Plain Dealer (OH), 12/4/2008
"In a 50-39 vote, House lawmakers approved House Bill 196, which would grant a 25 percent tax credit on total investments made in Ohio by film companies. The credits would be transferable from shoot to shoot, but would be capped at $100 million." The bill now heads to the Senate.
I hope it passes.

Peskin would cut S.F. arts funding by 50%
San Francisco Chronicle, 12/6/2008
"Three of San Francisco's most highly regarded arts institutions - the Symphony, the Opera and the Ballet - would see their city funding slashed in half under a dramatic cost-cutting proposal intended to spread the city's financial pain around. Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said he plans to introduce pages of money-saving ideas Tuesday. Probably the most controversial one is cutting money for the arts." In contrast, the mayor proposes a 7% cut to those and several other cultural institutions.
This is just terrifying and awful. Is SF Mayor Gavin Newsom dumb enough to let this happen?

Regional arts fund proposed
Philadelphia Business Journal, 12/5/2008
"Philadelphia may institute a United Way-style giving plan to help arts-and-culture organizations, the city’s arts commissioner said this week. United Arts Funds, as the fundraising programs are called, raise about $100 million a year in 70 regions nationwide, but have never been used here."
What about the NYC metropolitan area? Part of this story is members-only, but the basic outlines of the idea are clear.

Rep. Todd Platts Named Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair
Americans for the Arts website, 12/8/2008
"Representative Todd Platts (R-PA) was extended and has accepted the position of Co-Chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus (CAC), joining current Co-Chair Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) for the 111th Congress. . . . Rep. Platts’ acceptance ensures that the CAC will continue to have strong presence for the arts on the Republican side of the aisle."
Republicans for the arts? Geez, this fellow must be lonely.

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