Thursday, February 26, 2009

Arts Advocacy Update LXXVIII

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of February 25, 2009:

Cheap Seats, Staff Cuts Are on Tap for U.S. Nonprofit Theaters
Bloomberg News, 2/20/2009

"U.S. nonprofit theaters are cutting staff and expanding discounts as they anticipate disappointing ticket sales and fundraising, according to a new survey by the Theatre Communications Group."
And yet I don't see Theatre Communications Group formulating a long-term, sustainable solution to the recurring problem of arts funding in the United States. Just give us more NEA funding! By the way, you can link to a PDF of the TCG study here.

First family of arts lovers
Los Angeles Times, 2/24/2009

The Obama family's attendance at an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance at the Kennedy Center "fed increasing hopes among arts advocates that the Obamas would generate a greater buzz for the arts simply by smiling in theater seats or strolling through museum galleries."
First of all, let's be grateful for a President who reads. All else flows from that.

Ailing economy is taking a toll on arts in Rhode Island and the arts scene
Providence Journal (RI), 2/18/2009

"As the economy goes, so go the arts. That was the word yesterday from Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, who reported that a declining number of arts events is affecting the state’s restaurant and hospitality industry."
And the thing is, Rhode Island has a particularly large and vivid, productive arts scene, so this is especially bad.

Arts district to transform lower Taylor Street
San Francisco Chronicle (CA), 2/21/2009

Three blocks of one of "the seediest stretches" in San Francisco "would become an arts district - some say akin to New York City's SoHo, which became an area of cheap artists' lofts and studios in the 1960s and '70s - under a plan being cobbled together by city officials, landlords, artists and Tenderloin-area nonprofit workers. The transformation gets under way today with the groundbreaking of Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, which is taking over a vacant 4,000-square-foot building that once was a porn theater."
But is there anything like rent stabilization or rent control in San Francisco? How would the artists know that they could hold onto these lofts and studios once the area gentrifies? The story doesn't address that.

Armani Donates $1 Million to Schools
New York Times, 2/17/2009

"The Italian designer and billionaire Giorgio Armani celebrated Fashion Week on Tuesday with the announcement of a $1 million donation to promote arts programs in New York City public schools. The money will be used to create the Armani Arts Institute, an umbrella program that will fund arts initiatives in schools serving some of the city’s most disadvantaged populations."
This is wonderful, of course.

Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who's Doing It Best
Edutopia, February 2009

"Arts education has been slipping for more than three decades, the result of tight budgets, an ever-growing list of state mandates that have crammed the classroom curriculum, and a public sense that the arts are lovely but not essential.... Yet against this backdrop, a new picture is emerging. Comprehensive, innovative arts initiatives are taking root in a growing number of school districts. Many of these models are based on new findings in brain research and cognitive development, and they embrace a variety of approaches: using the arts as a learning tool (for example, musical notes to teach fractions); incorporating arts into other core classes (writing and performing a play about, say, slavery); creating a school environment rich in arts and culture (Mozart in the hallways every day) and hands-on arts instruction. Although most of these initiatives are in the early stages, some are beginning to rack up impressive results. This trend may send a message to schools focused maniacally, and perhaps counterproductively, on reading and math."
What this requires is not only teachers but, equally important, parents not being afraid of creativity. If they remain that way, we'll have another generation of culturally ignorant, pointy-headed idiots.

Public, Private Sector Leaders to Present Administration with Recommendations 'To Restore Public Diplomacy as Vital, Viable Element of Smart Power'
PR Newswire, 2/19/2009

"Some seventy men and women, representing a broad spectrum of public diplomacy stakeholders and practitioners, are calling on the Administration and Congress to reinvent and restore public diplomacy as a vital and viable element of 'Smart Power'. The group today issued a set of ten recommendations to guide the new Administration and Congress as they seek to revitalize and adapt public diplomacy in the context of new geopolitical realities and new communications tools. Participants included former and current public diplomacy practitioners and thought leaders from the State and Defense departments, the National Security Council, the White House, the intelligence community, foreign assistance, the arts, academe, business, Capitol Hill, state government, the traditional and new media (including print, broadcast and Internet), think tanks and institutes, NGOs and national private sector citizen diplomacy groups."
Paging Mrs. Clinton...

$5.6M cut from Missouri Arts Council
St. Louis Business Journal, 2/19/2009

"The Missouri Department of Economic Development is withholding nearly $5.6 million from the Missouri Arts Council as the state works to close a $261 million budget shortfall this year."
Funny thing is, that's about five times what California allocates to its state arts agency. At least the proportions in this case make me understand why the actions are being taken, much as I think they're short-sighted and regrettable.

Film tax credit on cutting room floor
Wisconsin Radio Network, 2/19/2009

"Governor Doyle has scrapped the movie tax credit program which was spearheaded by his own Lieutenant Governor and non-profit group Film Wisconsin. It also lured recent filmmakers to produce the Johnny Depp flick 'Public Enemies' in the Badger State. Doyle has an alternative that allots $500,000 in grants for permanent movie making jobs."
Permanent jobs? In Wisconsin? Hey, Jonathan West, what's up with that?

Rounds wants arts money restored
Sioux Falls Argus Leader (SD), 2/19/2009

"The South Dakota Arts Council might live to see another year. Gov. Mike Rounds said Tuesday he will try to keep funding for the South Dakota Arts Council alive in the state's budget because the newly approved federal stimulus package could help free up state money."
A Republican will accept federal stimulus money to save arts funding? The dude is cruising for a GOP bruising.

Taxing situation for New York
Variety, 2/19/2009

After years of watching production lured away by government incentives, California's gotten into the game by approving a five-year $500 million tax credit program. . . . California's program, which goes into effect July 1 with a cap of $100 million annually, will likely strike at the heart of the New York production industry. Even though California's tax credit rates are far below those in some other states -- Michigan offers a whopping 42% credit -- the presence of Hollywood's existing infrastructure and the desire to stay close to home has the potential to reverse more than a decade of runaway production."
As I've always said, it's a race to the bottom, a zero-sum game. Bloomberg and Paterson now have to decide whether it's worth the fight. I would say it is, but I don't have the numbers they have.

Individuals Make Fewer $1-Million Gifts; Grant Makers Help Offset Decline
Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2/25/2009

"Charitable gifts of $1-million or more from individual donors fell by 33 percent in the last half of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007, according to a new analysis of big gifts by researchers at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy.... On a more positive note, the center, which also tracks foundation and corporate grants of $1-million and up, found that grant makers’ giving was more resilient in the face of last year’s recessionary climate. Foundations actually increased the number of grants of $1-million or more by 10 percent in the last six months of last year, from 500 to 551, and by 16 percent for the entire year. Meanwhile, corporate grants of $1-million or more remained steady, with 146 such grants made in both calendar years."
As everyone knows, I've cut my own million-dollar gift-giving way back...

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