Arts Advocacy Update CVIII: Please! No More Flim-Flam on Film Credits!



The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Nv. 5, 2009. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Philadelphia: Celebrating 50 Years of City Public Art Funding, 11/2/09
“Hundreds of city, state, and federal agencies have adopted policies that set aside a portion of their capital budgets for artworks-but Philadelphia was first. In 1959, the City Council and the Redevelopment Authority took the trailblazing steps of requiring city capital projects and private developments to include public art. The intent was to ‘humanize and mitigate the deficiencies in the urban landscape,’ according to Aaron Levy, executive director and curator of the Slought Foundation. Since then, [Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority] and the Convention Center Authority have followed suit, and Philadelphia International Airport has created a program of temporary art exhibitions. Twenty-five years ago, the city launched what has eventually become the Mural Arts Program, which has created more than 3,000 works throughout the city. And before all of this, more than a century ago, the Fairmount Park Art Association began its work creating and caring for artworks in the city’s parks and open spaces.”
I would think the next step could be to calculate the expenditures on this art and to try to figure out what the economic impact — and social impact — of this art has been. The question: how do you — and should you — quantify beauty?

New Study Quantifies Economic Impact of Cultural and Heritage Tourism
Fox & Hounds Blog, 10/29/09
“A new study, the first of its kind, confirms that cultural and heritage tourism is huge-and bigger than many of us thought in terms of economic impact…Especially noteworthy is that this group is affluent and travels more and further as a whole-which means they are less impacted by the slow economy than other types of travelers. The study, conducted by Mandala Research for the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism (USCHT) Marketing Council, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce, shows that 78 percent of all U.S. leisure travelers (118.3 million adults) participate in culture and/or heritage activities while traveling, spending an average of $994 per trip, and contributing to more than $192 billion annually to the U.S. economy.”
These numbers are staggering. Just don’t tell people like Jeremy Gerard at Bloomberg News, who is against using economic impact numbers to defend culture — especially the public funding of it. This study, more than many others this year, proves why sticking purely to aesthetics-are-good values are nice, but ultimately weaker weapons than boiling things down to dollars and sense.

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Virginia: Music Programs Threatened in Highly Regarded School District
The Fairfax Times, 11/3/09
“Facing a large budget shortfall, Fairfax County Public Schools is looking to cut $162 million and more than 1,700 jobs from its FY 2011 budget. The proposed cuts, which face approval by the county board of education next spring, include the elimination of elementary school band and strings programs-a $7 million savings, according to school officials. The cuts are expected during a bad budget year, said [music teacher Cheri] Collins, but this year they feel more serious. In the mid-1990s, Collins said, music teachers were given pink slips because of budget cuts.”
And with this week’s election of an extreme conservative in Virginia, citizens of the Old Dominion State had better prepare themselves for an all-out assault on funding for school arts programs.

Iowa: Film Companies Suing State Over Suspended Tax Credit Program, 11/3/09
“Five film companies are suing Iowa over the suspension of a tax credit aimed at wooing movie productions to the Hawkeye State. Iowa Eye Entertainment LLC, Daedalus Film AG, C-Films France SAS, Clean Out Productions Inc., and Clean Out Film Services Inc. have sued the Iowa Department of Economic Development to make good on the promises made by the Iowa Department of Economic Development’s Film, Television, and Video Promotion Program. The film companies say they were approved for $6.5 million in tax credits before the program was suspended last month by Gov. Chet Culver. The tax credit program for filmmaking was suspended after an internal audit revealed abuses.”
This is going to get more ugly before the matter is finished. Truth is, a number of state legislatures have come to the conclusion that the big rush at the top of this decade to enact tax credits for film production did not yield the economic benefits that were promised — or, more worrisome, the fiscal benefits the credits generated are not substantial enough to maintain during extremely stressful economic times. The problem is, turning the tap off too abruptly can leave a state like Iowa in the position of having to defend itself against companies that were taking advantage of them. I’m fairly sure the film companies aren’t going to get far, but merely litigating the matter will costs Iowans a considerable sum. Only time will tell whether that sum will make a dent in the state’s treasury.

Massachusetts: Governor Says Film Tax Credit Program Will Not Be Eliminated
Boston Herald, 10/28/09
“The state will keep its new film industry tax credit even as [Gov. Deval Patrick’s] administration eyes tightening other tax laws to raise money for the cash-strapped state. Greg Bialecki, Gov. Deval Patrick’s secretary of housing and economic development, said the film tax credit is one of many tax exemptions, deductions, and incentives that the administration is now eyeing for possible changes as the state grapples with a $600 million budget deficit. Bialecki said the governor thought it was only fair that the state looks at tightening tax laws while also moving toward major cuts in state spending. He declined to mention which tax laws the administration is now reviewing. But he indicated eliminating the film tax credit is off the table, though it may face some adjustments. ‘No, we’re not going to eliminate it,’ he said, noting that some have estimated the credit has created thousands of jobs. Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Bob Deleo yesterday signaled strong support for the film tax credit, despite criticism that it’s costing the state more than $100 million a year.”
Speaking of which, here’s a film-incentive dynamic that makes a lot more sense.

Donor-Advised Fund Giving Steady, Despite Economic Crunch
Philanthropy News Digest, 10/29/09
“Hoping to blunt the impact of the recession, individuals who use donor-advised funds to manage their charitable donations are giving to their favorite charities at levels similar to what they gave before the recession, even if many of them haven’t been able to make new contributions to their funds, the Associated Press reports. Since the start of the recession, donors who rely on the rising value of their portfolios to fund their philanthropy have been putting less money into several of the largest donor-advised funds…According to research from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, even in good times money distributed to charities from donor-advised funds, which are conservatively estimated to have assets totaling $21 billion, represents only 3.5 percent of overall charitable giving. What’s more, because donors can claim a tax deduction when they put money into a donor-advised fund rather than when they make a grant, charities often have a love-hate relationship with the funds.”
Better news than I would have expected. If the market continues to improve into 2010, these stats may actually begin to turn around.

Finally, there are these announcements:

Robert Sterling Clark Foundation Releases New Cultural Engagement Publication
The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation has released the second publication in its Series on International Cultural Engagement, “The Art of Engagement: Trends in U.S. Cultural Exchange and International Programming.” This document presents an overview of the results from the International Programming and Cultural Exchange Survey administered between September 2007 and June 2008. One-hundred thirty-four artists and organizations representing 12 arts disciplines and the humanities weighed in on challenges, impact, and lessons learned from their experiences with international cultural exchange. To view the report, please visit the foundation’s website. Paper Highlights Social Entrepreneurship Policymaking
The feature, prepared by Lidia Varbanova, editor of the resources for research section of the website, looks at social entrepreneurship policymaking and the long-term impact this may have on society and culture. The piece examines the essence and characteristics of social entrepreneurship as a new global phenomenon, the policy objectives behind social entrepreneurship programs, and their impact on long-term policy decisions, including in the cultural sector. To read the article, please visit their website.