Arts Advocacy Update XCVI: The Creation of the Arts and Other Business

Decidedly not PC

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ email blast of August 5, 2009:

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Arts Groups Using New Ways to Draw Attention, Support
Arts Management, Summer 2009
“Arts groups are using virtually every means of wooing audiences. In addition to ticket discounts, offbeat programs, and unusual performance settings, the arts use of Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging has become increasingly prevalent and, in recent months, many arts groups including the San Francisco Symphony have introduced online social networks. In June, the New York Philharmonic became the first orchestra with its own Apple iPhone Application offering viewers extensive data, including program notes, audio clips of upcoming concerts, and reviews. On July 14, the Philharmonic introduced mobile giving-allowing audiences at its free concert in Central Park to send a five dollar donation by text message to the orchestra, with the donated amount to appear on each donor’s mobile service bill. Five text messages totaling twenty-five dollars could be sent with each monthly billing cycle. This summer, the Utah Symphony invited its 1,400 Facebook [friends] and 600 Twitter followers to sign up for the opportunity to post a live review of the music of ABBA at a Deer Valley Music Festival performance. The 50 selected from those who contacted the orchestra were offered free reserved seat tickets in a new media section.”
This is all very exciting, of course. What inevitably must follow this, however, are metrics — how do we measure the effectiveness of these approaches? Do we (or should we) measure it through ticket sales, through earned and contributed income, through visibility, through press coverage, or all of the above? What are fair and realistic benchmarks that we can establish in order to track how this goes?

Maryland: Goucher College Announces New Cultural Sustainability Program
Examiner.com, 8/3/2009
“Goucher College has begun accepting applicants to its new Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability program. The program-the only one of its kind in the country-brings together tools from anthropology, history, communications, business and management, linguistics, and activism, and it teaches students how to sustain cultural traditions in an era of increasing homogeneity and globalization. Cultural sustainability is a new discipline that combines activism, fieldwork, academic scholarship, and grassroots communications to help preserve cultural traditions and communities-whether these are neighborhoods, villages, cities, ethnic groups, religious or spiritual groups, tribes, or any other populations with shared traditions and values.”
The one thing missing from this story is what these graduate will do after their time in the program is complete. Will it ready them to be cultural anthropologists and, if you’ll forgive my ignorance, to what degree is there a call for that in the current marketplace? My worry, and I don’t even know if it is realistic, is that this is one of those super-niche programs that are fascinating to think about but lack a real end-result in terms of a j-o-b. Unless, of course, the idea is to perpetuate the academy.

Pennsylvania: Graffiti Art Project Hopes to Send Message to Elected Officials
The Morning Call, 8/4/2009
“A portable bathroom stands at the intersection of arts and politics. But for four-year-old Taylor Hall, who stood inside it at midday [on August 3], the wall to the right of the toilet, represented neither protest nor political message but merely a hard surface on which she happily splashed purple and black streaks. Taylor’s dad, though, supported the message Musikfest and ArtsQuest, its parent, are hoping to send-Don’t Wipe Away the Arts. For any size donation, people can paint the walls, roof, toilet and door of the Port-O-Let, which was a donation from a supporter. After the festival, organizers plan to ship the graffitied item to Harrisburg in protest of the proposed 2009-10 budget that cuts more than one million dollars from arts funding.”
I absolutely love the way good Pennsylvanian are mobilizing to save arts funding in their state. The locals are covering it beautifully — these are creative and sane approaches that I hope bear fruit for other states and localities going forward.

Florida: Proposed Miami-Dade Funding Cuts Mobilize Arts Community
The Miami Herald, 8/4/2009
“The fear that drew hundreds to squeeze inside the Miami Museum of Science’s small auditorium [on August 3] was apparent on the faces of all inside: Without a fight for funding, the end of Miami art is nigh. Attempting to close a $427 million budget gap, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez has proposed immense cuts to grants for art and culture groups, threatening their very existence…The years of art patronage-in the form of grants and subsidized tickets-would be interrupted by severe cuts, squeezing $14.8 million of funding down to a mere $4.4 million. What were 500 grant recipients would be whittled down to about 100. At [the] meeting, more than 200 of the local art community’s most prominent members vowed not to go down without a fight, flooding commissioners with telephone calls, e-mails, and face-to-face meetings…Their task [is] persuading commissioners to vote against the proposed cuts at public hearings on September 3 and 17.”
Calls, emails, meetings are great. But let the Miami folks look at what’s going on in Pennsylvania, above, and start getting even more creative about it. As a certain White House Chief of Staff has said, never let a good crisis go to waste.

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Connecticut: Governor Proposes Lower Film Tax Credit Cap
The Advocate (Stamford), 8/3/2009
“[Gov. M. Jodi Rell] not only continues to pitch an annual cap on tax credits the state provides for movie and television productions, but she now wants to set that figure at $25 million instead of the $30 million cap she first proposed in February. She said she believes capping the credit will save the state $70 million over the next two years. ‘That, to me, is a little surprising because I think the industry continually proves it’s growing, and jobs are being created and stimulating the economy,’ said Kevin Segalla, founder of the Stamford-based Connecticut Film Center and one of the most vocal proponents of the 3-year-old tax credit program. Segalla said he was away when the governor released her latest fiscal package [last week] and was unaware of her renewed bid for the cap. ‘Any move to cap it at this point would be counterproductive to the growth of our economy,’ Segalla said. With the state facing a two-year deficit, which is now estimated at $8.55 billion, lawmakers early in the year signaled they would be considering changes to the film production tax credits.”
Let’s see…Gov. Rell thinks that saving $70 million will help plug a gap of $8.55 billion — by cutting back on film production in Connecticut with all the economic drivers that accompany that. This is stupidity. Interesting that Rell is suddenly tacking radically to the right.

Georgia: Arts Center Receives $12 Million Foundation Gift
Atlanta Business Chronicle, 8/4/2009
“The Goizueta Foundation is donating $12 million to the Woodruff Arts Center to expand arts education programming for children and students up to the 12th grade. The gift is the single largest grant that the center has received for its campus-wide education initiatives. The grant also will help the arts center develop a cohesive and collaborative education platform that works with each of its divisions, including the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the Alliance Theatre. And the grant also is intended to better incorporate the arts in Georgia’s core education curriculum to help make up for the state’s low investment in arts education.”
It’s the last part of this blurb — incorporating the arts in the core education curriculum — that is most important. Bravo for them. Even in a blood-red state, they get it.

Virginia: Economy Causes Theater to Fall Short on Renovation Funding
NBC29.com, 7/31/2009
“Renovations to Waynesboro’s Wayne Theater look almost complete from the outside but the inside tells a different story. ‘We’ve finished the front fa√ßade, now it looks like it did in 1926,’ says the Wayne Theater Alliance Executive Director Clair Myers. The Wayne’s inside is still an empty shell. The theater is $1.5 million dollars shy of the $8 million needed for its complete restoration. Myers says organizations that once supported the arts are turning elsewhere. ‘This whole shift in our economy with unemployment and what not, has meant the money is moving towards social service kinds of activities, as oppose to bricks and mortar and the arts,’ he says.”
If all else fails, the government should step in with some kind of matching-grant rescue plan. To be sure, the Virginia state goverment probably cannot just pay for this renovation. But they can kick-start the fundraising process and draw attention to the critical task of finishing this job.

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