Arts Advocacy Update 157: Sundance Sunset?

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Dec. 8, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.) Expressions, opinions and/or comments in italics following each story highlighted in Arts Advocacy Update are those of the Clyde Fitch Report and are not endorsed or approved by Americans for the Arts.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010, Americans for the Arts is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. From offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, it serves more than 150,000 organizational and individual members and stakeholders. Visit them here.

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Georgia: State Music Hall of Fame Looking for New Home
The Albany Herald, 12/3/10
“The heads of two of Albany’s cultural institutions are meeting with officials to determine whether it would be feasible to pitch the city as a possible home for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. With music industry notables such as Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Harry James, and now Luke Bryan from the metro Albany area, some believe Southwest Georgia would be a fitting home for the hall…With the state pulling much of its funding, and visitation down due to a sluggish economy, both the Georgia Music and Sports halls are considering a move out of Macon and have put a request for proposals out to find interested cities.”
Look, let’s remember this is the same Georgia that came thisclose to eliminating the Georgia Council for the Arts this year. Most of them don’t get it; those who do have an uphill climb. Fingers crossed but, frankly, you can’t educate a Neanderthal. All you can do is give them sticks and hope they learn how to flagellate themselves into a permanent stupor.

District of Columbia: Smithsonian Removes Video Due to Objections
Associated Press, 12/2/10
“The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery quickly removed a video [November 30] that was part of an exhibit after complaints from a Catholic group that the images were sacrilegious. Catholic League President Bill Donohue said the video by artist David Wojnarowicz depicting ants crawling on a crucifix was ‘hate speech’ and designed to insult Christians…Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said the museum is responsive to its public audience but will stand behind the overall exhibit. The piece in question was on a video kiosk, and visitors had to call it up to view it. It was not a dominant part of the exhibit.”
What do I think? This is what I think. The intifada of the culture wars has begun. Ignore at your peril.

Michigan: Boosters Keep Band Marching
Ferndale Patch, 12/7/10
“Ferndale High School’s recent victory at the marching band state finals is evidence of the district’s commitment to music education…What spectators at the event may not have known is that they were not only watching the kids perform an award-winning set, but they also were watching Ferndale Arts Boosters (FAB) dollars at work. Items from sharp uniforms to shiny instruments to the refurbished semitrailer bearing the Golden Eagles emblem were all paid for, in part or in full, by the all-volunteer FAB…The FAB began as an unofficial band and orchestra booster club, registering as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization in 2003. The founding board hit the ground running, launching a nearly $200,000 capital campaign that year.”
I love this story — the idea of people compelled by the spirit of pride and community to join in. Which is, I guess, an argument for more and more decentralized funding models.

Texas: New Law Helps Bring Music Back to Schools
The Dallas Morning News, 12/6/10
“The hallways at Austin Middle School were quieter just a year ago. The school’s fine arts program was understaffed, and few instruments were available…But today, music can be heard in hallways, and gradually, throughout the district. Irving officials are trying to reverse a history of little resources. It has spent about $450,000 in bond funds for 505 new instruments and equipment for its schools…A new law that went into effect this school year requires middle school students to take at least one fine arts course. Irving’s targeted areas for improvement are band, choir, and orchestra programs. Districtwide, band participation grew 16 percent to 2,312 students; choir by 18 percent to 1,331 students; and orchestra by 23 percent to 1,050 students, according to school district records.”
Of course, in an ideal world it wouldn’t require a law to bring students into the orbit of the fine arts, but whatever works in the face of right-wing resistance, especially in Texas.

New Mexico: State Senator Objects to Sundance Project
KRQE-TV, 12/7/10
“Last year, with actor Robert Redford by his side, Gov. Bill Richardson announced a partnership between the state of New Mexico and Redford’s Sundance Institute to train Hispanics and Native Americans for jobs in the film industry. The partnership is set to be headquartered at a historic ranch the state purchased in 2008 for $2.5 million north of Espa√±ola. Now, the governor is spending $1.75 million of federal stimulus funds to renovate the property for the Sundance project…But State Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), isn’t sure now is the time to spend scarce funds on such a project. ‘We certainly appreciate the film industry here, but the bottom line is how much can we afford to subsidize it?’ he said.”
So what would the state senator in question have New Mexico do? Let the property fall apart, lie fallow, stand as a testimony to civic and institutional neglect? If one wants to tinker at the edges of the project, fine, and I’m not saying asking the question about where subsidies end isn’t ok to ask. I’m saying that the extreme position as the default is a bad way to examine policy.

New Jersey: Mayor Offers to Fund Music Program
The Record, 12/7/10
“Lyndhurst Township will help fund a joint township-school district band and music program to keep the cash-strapped program afloat. Township Commissioners will hold a public hearing next week on a capital ordinance to appropriate $100,000 from its surplus fund. The year-round program, which teaches music to youngsters at the elementary age level, had fallen on hard times because of cuts in the school budget. ‘We didn’t really want to see the program eliminated,’ Mayor Richard DiLascio said…DiLascio said the program is too important to let slip away and that funds will be used to buy instruments, stands, and equipment. ‘We want the public to recognize that performance is an integral part of education overall.'”
Glad the mayor knows it. Too bad New Jersey’s governor is too busy slathering the Garden State with his anti-everything — including anti-economy and anti-citizen — swagger.

Florida: Palm Coast Council Members Differ Over Arts Funding
The Daytona Beach News-Journal, 12/4/10
“The Palm Coast City Council often cites the city’s cultural richness, but the city’s contribution to that wealth will likely be less this year. [Next week,] the council will decide whether to distribute $20,000 to 11 organizations requesting funds to help put on programs. The groups had requested a total of $35,500, so only one group received all it requested. Last year, city officials budgeted $40,000 for the groups. Council Member Bill Lewis said the city of about 74,000 could do better…’I think we should do a little more for these organizations than just give them lip service,’ Lewis said. Lewis suggested increasing the amount for the groups, but Councilman Holsey Moorman said the budget season was past.”
Council Member Lewis is quite right: $20,000 out of a $26.7 million annual budget is embarrassing, shameful, regressive and stupid. Something about that Florida sun that renders otherwise normal people idiotic. (And also, no offense to the recipients, who I’m sure would rather have $1,500 than nothing, but mightn’t they not be just as well off with nothing?)

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Massachusetts: Graduate Class Examines Worcester’s Creative Economy
Telegram & Gazette, 12/5/10
“If 25 students work for 14 weeks with the aim of providing direction to the city of Worcester in the area of improving its creative economy, what will happen? The answer won’t be available until the end of the spring semester, when a new graduate-level course at Clark University, ‘Analyzing Worcester’s Creative Economy,’ concludes. The course, which will examine the part of Worcester’s economy that focuses on the production and distribution of cultural goods, services and intellectual property, is a joint venture of the Graduate School of Management, and the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise at Clark. ‘We hope to have a solid report, a blueprint for potential changes that we can give to the city,’ said course instructor Ted Buswick…adding that this is just the first step in a larger process.”
Never heard of the WOO Card until reading this story. What a fun idea and immensely catchy name. I’ll be interested to know what the results of this class turn out to be — and how it can be used to influence legislators.

Rhode Island: Television Show Production Worth $30 Million to State
The Providence Journal, 12/4/10
“The cast and crew of the new ABC series Body of Proof, gushed at the State House about their experiences filming in Rhode Island for the last five months…Stars Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan joined Film and TV Office executive director Steven Feinberg and elected officials in celebrating the near completion of filming the premiere season’s 13 episodes. ‘Having produced ten feature films and two hundred hours of television all over the United States and out of the country, I can tell you this has been my best experience to date,’ said executive producer Matt Gross. ‘The state supports the needs of production like no other I have ever been to.'”
And, according to the article, 170 full-time (if temporary) jobs. Nothing to sneeze at, right?

North Carolina: Duke Energy Foundation Supports Local Arts Groups
The Charlotte Observer, 12/5/10
“When arts groups have a moment to think beyond merely surviving the recession, their attention may turn to young people. Without the culture lovers of the future, a dead end lies ahead. The question is: How can you reach out to young people when you’re struggling to survive? For the Charlotte Symphony and Opera Carolina, the answer is coming from the Duke Energy Foundation. The foundation is giving the groups a total of $75,000 to help win over young people to music and opera.”
Duke is making up the difference, according to the article, between the $10 ticket charge and the $46 cost per ticket. I need some education: Why is it $46 per ticket? What’s really driving that number? Staff? Union salaries? Seems extraordinarily high to me, but perhaps it isn’t.