Arts Advocacy Update 159: Local Grants Make New Jersey Sure


The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Jan. 5, 2011. (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 not endorsed or approved by Americans for the Arts.

Americans for the Arts, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010, 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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Massachusetts: Creativity Index May Lead to Changes in Education, Business
San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/1/11

“If we are entering an age when creativity and innovation are the hallmarks of the most successful companies, why then are we not doing more to find out what makes people creative? One state is clearly taking the lead: Massachusetts… Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called last summer for the formation of a creativity index to measure creativity in public schools statewide… But clearly more needs to be done, and the Massachusetts legislation is an important first step for that state and the rest of our nation… The timetable for producing the index is not clear. A staff would need to be put in place first, but a first report is called for by the end of 2011. Their task would not be easy. Defining creativity and measuring it has been the work of scholars for decades.”
Far be it from me to criticize any effort to measure creativity or its impact on a local or state economy, but why is the Creativity Index promulgated by Richard Florida so many years ago no longer worth examining as a model? Or, to put this in the form of a question, what will be gained by reinventing the proverbial wheel?

Nebraska: Theaters Receive Community Development Funds
McCook Daily Gazette, 1/4/11

“Gov. Dave Heineman announced that [the cities of] McCook and Ord will receive $360,550 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for two theater projects. The City of McCook and the Alliance for the Encouragement of the Visual and Performing Arts will use a $254,300 CDBG award to remove material and architectural barriers within the historic Fox Theatre in downtown McCook…The City of Ord will use a $106,250 CDBG award to rehabilitate and convert the existing historic Valley Cinema into a theater that also accommodates theatrical and cultural presentations, plays, music events, comedy shows, speakers, charity auctions, and other events.”
It’s called economic investment — and this is it. My hat is off to Nebraska!

Mississippi: State Arts Commission Faces Cuts
The Hattiesburg American, 1/3/11
“It may seem like an odd reaction, but Mississippi Arts Commission Director Malcolm White said that he’s grateful to Gov. Haley Barbour for his Fiscal Year 2012 budget recommendations that would severely hurt the agency’s funding. ‘We’re just happy to be part of the discussion,’ he said. ‘It gives us a chance to talk about what we do.’ In November, Barbour proposed a 20 percent in state funding to the Mississippi Arts Commission, one of the largest cuts percentage-wise recommended to state agencies…More realistic, White said, is the Legislative Budget Office’s recommended 3.9 percent funding decrease to the arts commission.”
I find it interesting that at the same time that White expresses his gratitude toward Gov. Barbour for including the agency as “part of the discussion,” he makes it clear, in the article, that the proposed funding cut isn’t going to solve the state’s budget problems. As the article correctly states, Barbour’s budget is really an ideological document that asserts that arts funding is not a “core function of government.” That’s what the sector should be debating right now. For is it?

Washington: Governor Proposes Elimination of State Arts, Tourism Agencies
The Wenatchie World, 12/29/10
“State support for arts and tourism would virtually disappear in North Central Washington (NCW) if budget cuts proposed December 15 by Gov. Chris Gregoire take root. More than $100,000 in local arts grants and participation in national and international tourism campaigns could be gone July 1 if both the State Arts Commission and State Tourism Office are eliminated as part of $4.6 billion in cuts statewide. Axing arts and tourism from the state budget would save about $6.5 million over the next two years, but the actual impact on small communities in rural NCW would be harder to measure.”
Clearly the movement toward eliminating state arts agencies is bipartisan: Gregoire is a Democrat.

New Jersey: County Cultural Office Awards $82,000 in Local Grants, 12/29/10
“The Atlantic County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs has awarded $82,362 in grants to support art and history programs throughout the county. Numerous local nonprofit organizations will benefit from $74,104 in funding from the New Jersey Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. ‘These grants could not come at a better time to help enrich the lives of our residents and help arts and history to continue to thrive throughout Atlantic County,’ said County Executive Dennis Levinson. Organizations receiving general operating support funding include the Hammonton Art Center, the Atlantic City Ballet, Somers Point Jazz Society, and the South Jersey Area Wind Ensemble.”
In my view, the most interesting grants discussed in this story are the small ones. Whenever and wherever possible, the organizations receiving these small grants should reach out through press releases and especially social media to explain how this funding improved and shaped their programmatic goals, thus setting the stage for an argument to keep the funding flowing.

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North Carolina: New Artist Resource Center Launched in Asheville
Mountain Xpress, 1/3/11
“Arts 2 People, an Asheville-based nonprofit devoted to promoting the role of the arts as an integral part of our culture, announces the institution of an Artist Resource Center (ARC). The ARC will provide programmatic assistance to art-centric entrepreneurs invested in diversifying their business management skills and enhance their ability to benefit from the current revitalization and economic development in downtown Asheville. The Artist Resource Center will teach artists the business skills necessary to make their creative endeavors economically viable and sustainable. Essentially a career center where artist entrepreneurs can hone business management and other practical skills, the ARC will feature workshops and classes specifically geared toward fostering the growth of local creative professionals.”
A wonderful idea for a program. I do have one question, and it isn’t geared toward Asheville or North Carolina but, instead, to the nation as a whole: Why don’t we do a better job of teaching our arts and creative professionals business skills when they’re in college? I mean, basic bookkeeping. Not that we shouldn’t have projects like ARC, but wouldn’t it be better, and more thrifty, if we did a better job of teaching our young artists certain life skills while they’re learning?

Florida: Despite Economy, Artists Ban Together to Open Co-Op
St. Petersburg Times, 1/1/11
“Really, who in their right mind would open an art gallery in this sluggish economy in, of all places, Hudson, FL? Those not looking for it are likely to pass by the Art Asylum without even noticing the little shop wedged between an insurance agency and a title company on the west side of U.S. 19 just north of State Road 52. But this is a starting place for four local artists who decided the time was right to pool their talents and their resources. A couple of months after checking out commercial rentals and finding the right spot at the right price, they’re keeping busy, churning out work, and filling the walls and shelves with a modest offering of paintings and drawings, jewelry, baskets, pottery, and ceramics…A little cramped, perhaps, but right now it’s a dream come true.”
Wonderful story. No real commentary on this — just read it. Gives you hope.