Arts Advocacy Update CXXIX: Jersey Unsure

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of April 21, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Ohio: Public Art Program Keeping Cincinnati Beautiful
CityBeat.com, 4/20/2010

“Last October, simplified paintings of windows and doors began to appear across the boarded-up facades of derelict buildings around Over-the-Rhine. Since then, they’ve been sprouting consistently around the inner city. Fittingly, these are the work of Future Blooms, an unusual public art program initiated by Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. In a small, localized way, it recalls the work of the Federal Art Project, part of the job-creation Works Progress Administration that existed as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression. The imaginary windows and doors are painted in various bold and soft hues onto the barricades that cover the original architecture’s actual windows and doors…Future Blooms is a $100,000 grant project funded by Cincinnati Empowerment Corporation, the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, and trustees of the Fifth Third Bank. According to its mission statement, it is specifically aimed at ‘the aesthetic enhancement of vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties within the Empowerment Zone.'”
With apologies for being all local, but this reminds me of the urban beautification efforts that were begun under New York City Mayor Ed Koch years ago and is now considered de rigueur. As a fiscal stimulus tool, I think it’s great, but it’s a beginning, not an end, right?

New York: Bloomberg Administration Wants Fewer Art Vendors in City Parks
ArtDaily.org, 4/19/2010

“Manhattan’s most famous parks are lined with artists selling their sculptures, paintings, and photographs-often of quintessential New York scenes-but city officials say the vendors have grown out of control and are trying to force many of them off the streets. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration wants to shrink the vendor population by up to 80 percent in some areas-dramatically altering a colorful part of the cityscape that has for decades served as an outdoor gallery popular among tourists in a city known worldwide for its arts…The Bloomberg administration says street art has outgrown its space in the city’s most popular parks, dominating sidewalks and interfering with pedestrian traffic. Vendors say the rules violate their First Amendment guarantee of free expression. ‘It’s about balance,’ said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. ‘They can still vend their stuff; they just can’t do it in uncontrolled droves where park visitors are forced to walk through a gauntlet of vendors.'”
Mayor Bloomberg — and especially Commissioner Benepe — is being so stupid and so fundamentally anti-entrepreneurial, not to mention so sickeningly full of fetish for the city nanny-state, that there really aren’t words for this. Shame on them. And you’d better think this is a First Amendment issue. Frankly, if on the table was a discussion about broadening where artists can sell their wares (hello? think outer boroughs, people!), perhaps it would seem so destructive. But this is just blithe and wildly moronic.

New Jersey: Paterson School Budget Threatens 88 Art and Music Teachers
The Bergen Record, 4/16/10

“Superintendent Donnie W. Evans said given the $23 million cut in state aid to Paterson’s 2010-11 budgets, he has no choice but to cut ‘non-essential’ teaching positions. Governor Christie’s school aid budget lowered Paterson’s aid to $419.7 million. About 70 percent of the district’s operating budget is salaries and benefits. Among the 775 positions on the chopping block are 50 music teachers and 38 art teachers from across the district. Evans said he takes no pleasure in cutting teachers’ jobs, but said he had no other choice if the district is to preserve classroom teachers who instruct the basics: math, reading, and science…Evans cautioned that the final list of positions to be cut is not yet ready and that he is still looking for grant money to save various positions. Among those on a preliminary list are dozens of elementary language teachers, librarians, social workers, special education coaches, guidance counselors, and art teachers.”
The people of New Jersey are getting what they voted for. Suffer.

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Virginia: Arts-Friendly County Proposes 36 Percent Cut to Grants
The Washington Examiner, 4/18/10

“Arlington County officials are preparing to drop the guillotine on taxpayer funding for the county’s prized arts programs. The county plans to chop arts grants by 36 percent next year, or about $100,000. Officials also expect to eliminate all county contributions to arts education programs and reduce the funding for supplies for public arts programs…Arlington leaders have long touted their community as a bastion for the arts. But tough budget times have refocused the county’s fiscal priorities. ‘Arts or cops? The county’s got to make a tough decision,’ Susan Kalish, spokeswoman for the county’s parks and recreation department said…Smaller, independent arts groups would be hit the hardest. ‘When it comes to the smaller programs-little concerts and shows-basically, with this cut the county is out of the business of getting to do things likes that,’ Kalish said. More than 25 arts groups would see a drop in county funding next year. And for some organizations, those reductions could be insurmountable.”
Sad, seemingly unending, right? What we’re destroying here is an entire generation of arts-aware youth. I mean, “arts or cops”? What an awful question. More of the Bush legacy, writ small.

Kresge Foundation Changes Arts and Culture Grantmaking Strategy
Philanthropy News Digest, 4/21/10

“The Kresge Foundation in Troy, MI, has announced a new national strategy for its arts and culture program to help foster the long-term financial stability of arts groups. The foundation’s arts and culture grantmaking is focused on three areas: institutional capitalization, artists’ support services, and arts and community building. Under the new strategy, institutional capitalization activities will include investments in cultural facilities and building reserves funds, with a focus on renovation and repair projects. The foundation will no longer consider traditional facilities-capital challenge grants. The foundation is accepting pre-application e-mails for facility investments and building reserves grants, with a call for applications scheduled for the fall.”
Question: Would it be inaccurate to characterize this new strategy as leveraged in favor of large organizations — and, therefore, coming out of the hides of smaller, less sustainable organizations?

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