Thursday, January 29, 2009

Arts Advocacy Update, LXXIV

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of January 28, 2009:

We think: Arts center can bring jobs, transform downtown Orlando
Orlando Sentinel (FL), 1/25/2009

An Orlando Sentinel editorial argues that "local officials mustn't dawdle on securing financing for the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center. It will be a great asset to this community," including creating 1500 jobs and $50.4 million a year in direct spending.
And give Disney some, er, competition?

City receives arts audit
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), 1/28/2009
"An audit of arts programs and education within Lafayette Parish was released Tuesday.... Ultimately, the audit will be used to guide the Lafayette Parish School System’s development of a comprehensive arts curriculum to be implemented at all schools by 2010-11, per a state mandate passed in 2007.... Some recommendations based on the results include the formation of an alliance to promote arts in education; development of external funding sources; more training opportunities for teachers; a comprehensive arts curriculum; and increased public awareness of arts programming available in the community."
Numbers, please. But good for them! Very progressive thinking.

The Return of Cultural Diplomacy
Newsweek, 12/31/2008

"Americans have long believed that exporting movies, pop music, TV shows and other entertainment is both good business and good diplomacy. Is this belief still justified? Regarding business, the answer is yes. . . . Diplomatically speaking, however, the picture is mixed."
As Ambassador and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs under George W. Bush, wasn't this what Karen Hughes was supposed to be spearheading? Before we debate it -- or do the "Party of No" Republican thing and trash it -- let's see whether it works. I bet it does.

An Old, Bad Idea for the Arts
Wall Street Journal, 1/23/2009

The idea of a cabinet-level office for the arts is not new, says David A. Smith. "The primary false assumption at play here is that more centralization is the best way for the government to address a problem and signify its importance. . . . Art is a type of human expression fundamentally different from the other activities carried on by people in society, let alone by a state. It is a far more individualistic enterprise and has to be conceived -- I almost am tempted to say jealously guarded -- as such. Similarly, the cultural programs carried out by the American government thrive on the individualism and energy found in their respective agencies. . . . To think of the government's widespread and variegated cultural programs as the proper responsibility of something as bureaucratically ponderous as a single department is, I think, a way to damage the way people ought to think about art."
This piece is a backward, dithering, fear-mongering mess. I have responded to it in an essay that will be on line shortly.

Arts Leaders Urge Role for Culture in Economic Recovery
New York Times, 1/25/2009

"In Congress the American Recovery and Reinvestment bill, approved last week by the House Appropriations Committee, includes a $50 million supplement for the N.E.A. to distribute directly to nonprofit arts organizations and also through state and local arts agencies. . . . Arts groups, meanwhile, are urging federal departments like Transportation or Labor to factor culture into their financing. A transportation enhancement program, for example, could pay artists for related public artworks; through the Labor Department displaced arts professionals could receive new training to stay in the work force. . . . The president is considering the establishment of an arts-and-culture portfolio within the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, according to Bill Ivey."
In the same essay noted above, I respond to this article as well.

Movie Production Incentives Are Said to Help New York
New York Times, 1/27/2009

"Costly state incentives to lure film production and jobs may be paying off, at least in New York. A study of New York’s tax breaks for movie and television production suggested that a 30 percent credit offered by the state, with an additional 5 percent offered by New York City, could be expected to keep or create about 19,500 jobs while yielding $404 million in tax revenue, at a cost of $215 million in credits. But the benefits were heavily weighted toward New York City. . . . The city collects about 6.4 times as much in taxes from film as it spends on incentives...
I'm not surprised and of course very pleased. Other states that jumped on the tax-break bandwagon should take their cue from New York in terms of how they market themselves to the film industry. Because that's an integral part of making this kind of thing work.

Obama Team Convenes Arts Leaders
Musical America, 1/21/2009

"Weeks before he took the oath of office, Barack Obama and his administration were laying the groundwork for sweeping changes -- even in the arts. On Thursday, Jan. 15, Bill Ivey, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts who now heads Obama’s transition team for arts and culture, convened a meeting of about 20 arts-service organization heads at the Presidential Transition Team Headquarters on Sixth Street in Washington. . . . 'We didn’t begin by answering Bill’s question about the NEA,' says [LAO head Jesse] Rosen. 'I started by describing the surprising amount of commonality across disciplines and institutions about the challenges we face.' Those include understanding the new audiences they must attract, wanting to be closer to their communities, taking advantage of the new opportunities technology affords. 'There was a sense that our models and ways of doing business needed to be reconsidered and possibly redone or adapted. . . . 'Bill said at one point in the meeting that he was really surprised; he thought we were going to come in waving the banner for more money...."
And the great thing is that here we have a president who may actually get it.

Stimulus Package Includes Millions For The Arts
NPR's All Things Considered, 1/27/2009

The current economic stimulus package includes $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $150 million for infrastructure repairs at the Smithsonian. While some disagree that such funding is the best way to stimulate the economy, Bill Ivey, former chair of the NEA and a member of the president's transition team, points out that "a healthy arts community is important, especially during hard times. 'We're not going to be able to think about happiness and quality of life only in terms of the next vacation or the bigger house or the new car,' Ivey says. 'Once we move away from a consumerist view of a high quality of life — once we're forced away from it — arts and culture, creativity, homemade art, those things can begin to come to the fore.' Ivey hopes government will play a role in making sure that happens."
Sure, ok, yeah, but this isn't Ivey's strongest argument. The strongest argument remains economic impact and jobs and he -- and the other arts leaders, such as Teresa Eyring at TCG -- have a moral responsibility to pound and pound on that information. They're doing a tremendous amount, but it's not enough. All talk is cheap when no Republican votes for the stimulus.

Unleash the arts -- 1 percent of the stimulus package
Mansfield News-Journal, 1/25/2009

The board chairman of the DC-Based Institute for Policy Studies calls for WPA-style support for the arts to be included in the stimulus package now before Congress. "The Institute for Policy Studies recently launched a petition calling for 1 percent of the stimulus package to be spent on the arts. This arts stimulus initiative wouldn't just boost funding for public programs. The money could create workplace arts and reading programs, increase fellowship and scholarship support for artists, foster cultural exchange programs with other nations and support artist- and writer-in- residence programs in schools and public libraries, and more."
Nice sentiment, but ain't gonna happen as long as no Republican votes for the stimulus.

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