Friday, February 20, 2009

Arts Advocacy Update LXXVII

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of February 18, 2009:

A (Half-Price) Night at the Opera
Wall Street Journal, 2/14/2009

"Many cultural groups, hit hard by the recession, are slashing prices at the box office. It's a controversial tactic in the arts world, where profits are always hard-won. But by offering low prices on high culture, the new crop of deals provide an attractive access point, especially for casual fans."
And isn't that better, sociologically, in the long-run? I mean, half the problem is the ineffectiveness of the arts, generally, in luring people to live performance.

New Smithsonian chief sees technological future
Los Angeles Times, 2/17/2009

Wayne Clough, the new secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, says "We need to make our collections, talented scholars and other resources accessible worldwide by providing additional platforms and vehicles for educating and inspiring large audiences.... Our job is to authenticate and inform the significance of the collections, not to control access to them. It is no longer acceptable for us to share only 1% of our 137 million specimens and artifacts in an age when the Internet has made it possible to share it all."
Will we need stimulus money to pay for that? Hire me!

Verdi With Popcorn, and Trepidation
New York Times, 2/15/2009

"Thanks largely to the efforts of the Metropolitan Opera, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are seeing live opera performances in movie theaters, and many others in repeat showings.... [But] a few voices have raised concerns about long-term effects on the art form. The dissenters say that the movement will lead to more conservative programming; that the voice will become subservient to appearance; that listeners will be trained to hear something electronic and lose an appreciation for a live experience. Some worry that vocal training will change, de-emphasizing the ability to project, and that the Met’s effort is a deal with the Devil, because it will divert audiences from local opera houses to make the easier, cheaper trip to the mall."
Well, the live-experience fear is certainly valid. That said, I think if you combine smart marketing with this trend -- see three operas on screen, get one ticket free -- it could be more than adequately addressed.

Officials favor turning facility into arts center
New Haven Register (CT), 2/16/2009

In West Haven, CT, "[l]ocal and state leaders have thrown their support behind a proposal to spend $1.2 million on renovating the old Masonic Temple on Center Street into the West Haven Cultural Arts Center. Mayor John M. Picard and City Councilman Edward M. O’Brien, D-At Large, are among those calling for state legislators to authorize bonds for the project, even as the state faces serious budget woes.... 'I think the arts center is not only important for the arts but also as an economic development driver,' Picard said."
And in West Haven in particular, that's quite true. Connecticut tends to be rather enlightened about the arts.

Asia still likes America
International Herald Tribune, 2/17/2009

"Unlike in the rest of the world, America's reputation in Asia remains robust. New evidence suggests that in East Asia, U.S. 'soft power' - the power to persuade others to do what you want them to do by attraction rather than coercion - has actually increased over the past eight years. Despite China's rise, the United States remains the leading source of soft power in the region.... When separated into categories, the United States led China in four measured areas - political, diplomatic, human capital and economic - while China led the United States in one - cultural."
How will Obama and Clinton transform the cultural export programs of the State Department? That's the question this story raises for me.

Barack and Slumdog
Huffington Post, 2/17/2009

"Unlike most countries, we are seen not only for what we are and what we do, but through the images we project globally through pop music, TV shows and Hollywood films.... If politics in the information age is about whose story wins, then, given this reality, America's storytellers -- Hollywood -- have a starring role in defining America's presence globally. For that reason, they ought to to be recruited for the new 'smart power' campaign, which must be two-fold -- projecting America abroad and projecting knowledge of others to ourselves at home."
Exactly. I refer, in fact, to the comment I posted just above.

Copyright reform unlikely, advocates say
CNet, 2/11/2009

"With a new administration and a Democratic Congress, now is the time to overhaul copyright law, advocates for reform said Wednesday--but the complex nature of the issue makes copyright legislation nearly as unrealistic as ever. Representatives of songwriters and the recording industry faced off against open Internet advocates at the Future of Music Coalition's Policy Day here in Washington, demonstrating the entrenched divisions that remain within Democratic constituencies over copyright issues.... Yet even with bank bailout plans and billion-dollar efforts at economic recovery keeping lawmakers busy, the climate in Washington may finally be right for copyright and intellectual property reform. The House Judiciary Committee this year elevated intellectual property issues from the jurisdiction of a subcommittee to the full committee because of increased interest in the matter."
It's not just in the music industry -- it's literature and fair-use issues, too. I don't get the sense that they're looking for compromise, so I tend to agree -- Congress is not about to wade into this and get egg on its face. Let the parties battle it out for a little while longer first.

Arts advocates oppose Pawlenty’s budget proposal
Rosemount Town Pages, 2/17/2009

"Pawlenty is proposing to cut the [Minnesota] Arts Board and regional councils by 50 percent over the next two years - which [theater director Sean] Dowse called 'a disproportionate burden' - and then eliminate the Arts Board after 2011." Although Minnesota passed the Legacy Amendment in 2008, "the amendment states that 'the dedicated money ... must supplement traditional sources of funding for these purposes and may not be used as a substitute.'"
Ugh. Republicans.

Arts Council faces 23% cut in budget
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), 2/15/2009

"Grappling with a proposed 23 percent cut in its operating budget, the Kentucky Arts Council faces considerable pressure in maintaining its mission of serving 120 counties in the state."
Ugh. Kentucky.

California Beckons Film Crews
New York Times, 2/16/2009

"Not long ago, location filming in and around Los Angeles was viewed as a nuisance to be suffered with traffic on the San Diego Freeway and the occasional minor earthquake. But it dwindled as states like New Mexico, Louisiana and Michigan used tax incentives to lure film production, while California declined to play the subsidy game.... But that may change. On Monday the state’s legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger continued to debate a budget proposal that included $100 million a year in tax credits for so-called below-the-line spending — payments other than those to the stars and filmmakers — on certain movies and television shows in the state."
That's what, $100M more than the appropriation for the California Arts Council? I exaggerate, I know.

Fundraising losses to state arts and culture groups could top $300M
Crain's Detroit (MI), 3/13/2009

"The loss of $6.1 million in state funding for arts and culture will impact arts groups’ ability to leverage federal funding and match grants in a big way. In fact, it could cause Michigan groups to lose opportunities to raise more than fifty times that amount - or a combined $310 million - through local match grants, said new ArtServe President Jennifer Goulet. Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, announced Thursday, eliminates all operational support for arts and culture but includes $1 million for capital improvement grants to those groups. It also calls for transfer of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and its staff to the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and the closure of the state Department of History, Arts and...
Here we go again -- it's the economic-impact question. People have got to make the case and stop advocating just for NEA handouts.

House Committee to Hold Hearings on Benefits of the Arts
ARTINFO, 2/13/2009

"U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, announced last week that the committee would hold a series of hearings this spring to examine how the arts benefit the nation's economy and schools, and what can be done to help support them during the economic downturn."
I'll be keeping an eye on this.

Is this any time to increase arts funding?
Crosscut (Seattle, WA), 2/16/2009

"Can the argument that arts funding is instant stimulus prevail against all the better-organized pressure groups trying to retain funding during hard times? There are three tests for the [Washington state] Governor and the Legislature. One is increasing funding for the State Arts Commission.... A second is securing some of the expiring stadium taxes for King County's arts-funding organization, called 4Culture.... The third test is a sleeper bill (HB 166 in the House, SB 5786 in the Senate) that would enable local counties to pass a tenth-of-a-cent increase in local sales tax to fund arts and cultural organizations (including such things as zoos, botanical gardens, history museums, and science museums)."
Thank you! Great story.

The Arts Need Better Arguments
Wall Street Journal, 2/18/2009

Classical music critic Greg Sandow offers a sober assessment of the fight for fifty million NEA dollars in the economic stimulus bill. The arts, he says, are not unique in generating economic impact. Further, as charities for the homeless and poor face cuts, some argue that "the arts have a lot of money, and that they largely serve an upscale audience." Although such statements may not be true, "let's not underestimate how persistent those perceptions are, especially when reality at least partly seems to back them up.... The arts are going to need a better strategy. And in the end it's going to have to come from art itself, from the benefits art brings, in a world where popular culture -- which has gotten smart and serious -- also helps bring depth and meaning to our lives. That's the kicker: the popular culture part. Once we figure that out, we can leave our shaky arguments behind and really try to prove we matter."
Well, no one said the arts are "unique in generating economic impact." The real question, Greg Sandow, is whether the GOP is prepared to attack or discount an economic sector putting $166 billion into the economy. It's not that the arts need better arguments -- the GOP needs finer arguments against it. And the left needs to stop looking to Congress for a $50M NEA boost and start thinking in terms of a long-term strategy for arts funding.

Charities Fear New Pay Limits Will Hurt Executive Donations
Wall Street Journal, 2/17/2009

"Nonprofits already face the prospect of fewer donations amid turmoil at Wall Street firms and other companies. Now, they could face another donation deterrent: Washington's plans to curb executive pay. Americans gave more than $300 billion to charity in 2007, according to the most recent figures. Some of the largest gifts from that pot have come from wealthy Wall Street bosses. Now nonprofit leaders, especially in and around New York's financial hub, are worried these big donors could feel squeezed further amid government edicts to limit pay packages."
Of course it will! But we're in a depression/recession. Them's the breaks. Why should nonprofits fight for captains of industry to take taxpayer money and give a portion of it to them?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Jacobs,

My name is Mike Kruger and I do Online Outreach for the House Education and Labor Committee, under Chairman Miller.

I see that you are interested in our upcoming hearings on the Benefit of the Arts. Please contact me and I'd love to answer any questions you may have and make sure to keep you filled in as things develop.

Mike Kruger
Online Outreach Specialist
Committee on Education and Labor
(202) 226-1956