Arts Advocacy Update LVIII

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of September 17, 2008:

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ArtCast: Episode 8
ArtCast, September 2008
Bob Lynch, President & CEO of Americans for the Arts, discusses the organization’s new partnership with The Aspen Institute and how it is helping leaders across the United States gain a better understanding of the arts as a tool for job creation, economic impact, education, and cultural diplomacy.
Not a long one, but a very interesting one. I also find Lynch to be great to listen to or talk to.

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Making a case for the arts
Indianapolis Star (IN), 9/13/2008
“City arts leaders have decided to join [Indianapolis] Mayor Greg Ballard’s fight against crime. In turn, they hope he’ll keep the arts near the top of the city’s agenda. . . . The symphony, paintings and piano recitals feel soft compared to the hard tasks of economic development, urban renewal and crime fighting. Yet, the arts have a place in addressing each of those issues, helping steer young people away from crime as well as attracting skilled professionals and the businesses that employ them.”
Please, Mayor Ballard? Please, if we throw a sop to your fight against crime, please if we kiss your ass and beg and plead and scratch and claw for your attention, please, oh pretty please with sugar on top actually pay attention to the goddamn arts that you’re so eager and excited to give a budget cut to?

Education and the arts
Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2008
Responding to the new RAND study that argues schools must expand arts education to build a new audience, a Los Angeles Times editorial questions, “if our society is placing less value on classical arts, is it proper for schools to try to change a cultural trend? If the popularity of video games miraculously plummets, few would want schools to create a market for the genre. The advent of the Internet calls into question even the future of literacy as we know it, a shift that mightily concerns newspapers across the nation.”
These are kinds of broad-brush questions that are important to ask. Although the whole idea of questioning whether it’s “proper for schools to try to change a cultural trend” is a little disturbing. I mean, video games are a cultural trend, sure, no question. But to posit the idea of arts education as a cultural trend — I mean, that’s just offensive. The reductionism of the American mind appears to be continuing unabated.

Opinion: San Jose should become an incubator for the arts
Mercury News (Silicon Valley, CA), 9/11/2008
Ann Markusen, an economist at the University of Minnesota, says San Jose should nurture its artistic side. “The nation’s 10th largest city does not even rank among the top 50 in artists’ share of the workforce. That’s surprising, since high-tech businesses rely heavily on creative talent to bring products like software, video games, music and communications gear to the market. Close encounters between engineers and software designers, on the one hand, and musicians, visual artists, creative writers and performing artists on the other will boost creativity and ensure that the region retains and diversifies its high-tech prowess.”
It’s called economic incentives. They’ll get it, eventually. Artist housing, too.

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Proposed Copyright Law a ‘Gift’ to Hollywood, Info Groups Say
Wired, 9/10/2008
“A dozen special-interest groups urged lawmakers Wednesday to squelch proposed legislation that for the first time would allow the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute civil cases of copyright infringement. The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act, scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, also creates a Cabinet-level copyright- patent czar charged with creating a worldwide plan to combat piracy. . . . [The bill would] encourage federal-state anti-piracy task forces, the training of other countries about IP enforcement and, among other things, institute an FBI piracy unit.”
I nominate Clint Eastwood for the cabinet-level post. Failing that, Bob Barr. Failing that, Elizabeth Hasselback. She’d be great at telling pirates where to go.

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Arts Agency Chairman Is Moving On
Washington Post – AP, 9/12/2008
“Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts since March 2003, plans to announce today [September 12] that in January he will leave the federal agency he is credited with helping revitalize. Gioia, a prize-winning poet and critic, said he will become the director of a new arts program at the Aspen Institute, an international organization that conducts forums on contemporary issues. . . . During his term, Gioia spearheaded a vigorous program of initiatives that quelled much of the criticism of the agency, especially from conservative groups. Also, through a landmark study on reading, he gave adult literacy an unexpected platform.”
He’s almost irreplacable in the sense of someone being able to placate disparate groups. But, of course, someone with the vision and the balls to turn the NEA into a real endowment, one separated out from appropriations battles and cultural wars, would be his ideal replacement.

Congressional Arts Report Card 2008
Americans for the Arts Action Fund PAC, 2008
“Americans for the Arts Action Fund PAC has produced this Congressional Arts Report Card as a guide to help you make arts-informed decisions at the ballot box. The guide contains carefully evaluated legislative benchmarks that form a detailed arts record, including a numerical score and letter grade, for each Member of the House.” House Members received grades chiefly based on: “Four major floor votes on arts funding”; “Membership in the Congressional Arts Caucus”; “Introduction or cosponsorship of arts-related legislation”; and “Signatures on ‘Dear Colleague’ letters to the Appropriations Committee, asking it to increase funding for the NEA or for arts education.”
Everyone should read this. I love this.

IRS Releases New Form 990-EZ
Chronicle of Philanthropy, 9/10/2008
“The Internal Revenue Service today [September 10] released the latest version of its Form 990-EZ, the short version of its informational tax form for groups with 2008 receipts of less than $1-million.”
No snark — this is important stuff.

Nonprofit groups turn to survival strategies
Providence Journal (RI), 9/7/2008
“Mergers and acquisitions are daily events in the world of for-profit corporations. Now they are becoming more prevalent among nonprofit organizations trying to cut overhead costs and attract scarcer contributions in a sagging economy while continuing to provide important services.”
Just wait until this trend really hits the theatre world. And it’s coming, don’t be mistaken about that. It’s coming.

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Wall Street Woes Endanger Funding for the Arts
New York Sun, 9/16/2008
“The turmoil on Wall Street will affect a wide swath of New York City’s cultural institutions, hurting corporate and individual donations at a time when these organizations are facing what one philanthropist called a ‘perfect storm’ of economic pressures. . . . . Among the other pressures already facing institutions have been the recent cuts in city funding, diminished earnings on endowments invested in the financial markets, and New Yorkers trying to save money by refraining from buying their usual subscriptions or by buying less expensive tickets. And now the crises at two financial institutions that have been major supporters of the arts will reverberate across the cultural landscape.”
Perfect storm, indeed. Thanks, Lehman.

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