Arts Advocacy Update LXVIII


The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of November 26, 2008:

London mayor unveils cultural strategy
Variety, 11/24/2008
London Mayor Boris Johnson “wants to encourage London’s youth to go to the opera and ballet as well as enjoy the more populist arts introduced by the previous Labor administration. The moves are part of the mayor’s cultural strategy for the capital in the next four years, unveiled Monday in his Cultural Metropolis document. Key elements, to be implemented by Johnson’s director of cultural policy Munira Mirza, include increasing the cultural education of young people as well as cutting the red tape involved in producing cultural events.”
But will Mayor Bloomberg create a minister of culture? Hmmm…only if he/she isn’t term limited, I suppose.

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Oyster card for the arts in Mayor’s culture masterplan
Evening Standard (UK), 11/24/2008
“An ‘Oyster card’ for the arts, giving free or cheap entry to events and venues, could be handed out to Londoners under plans announced by the Mayor today. The electronic pass would provide access to museums, theatres and sports centres for the elderly and children in care, and could eventually be extended to all schoolchildren. . . . The idea is set out as part of a wider strategy by Boris Johnson to boost London’s cultural life.”
Putting some mussel into the scene, I suppose.

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Wanted: More arts venues
Greensboro News Record (NC), 11/23/2008
In Greensboro, NC, “performers struggle to find a well-suited place to play.” The symphony, for example, played a recent pops concerts at a “mega-church.” The issue has been often studied and debated in recent years, “but little has changed. . . . [N]ow community-development group Action Greensboro will consider whether to pay for a study and long-term plan that looks at all city performing arts facilities – sometime in the next 3 to 5 years.”
Slow change, but change nonetheless. Yes we can. Here’s to you, Greensboro.

Arts District hit hard by sluggish sales
Vineland Daily Journal (NJ), 11/22/2008
In Millville, NJ, businesses in the arts district are struggling. “[T]he city wants to help the owners ‘stay afloat’ on the hope the New Jersey Motorsports Park and a soon-to-be-renovated Levoy Theatre will bring more tourists. [Mayor James] Quinn and other city officials met with local owners recently at City Hall, and the city is working on a plan it hopes to unveil soon that could benefit the businesses.”
Here’s a link to the history of the Levoy Theatre.

FCC appeals Janet Jackson case to Supreme Court
Washington Post – AP, 11/21/2008
“The Federal Communications Commission has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the indecency case over Janet Jackson’s breast-baring performance at the 2004 Super Bowl. The FCC this week appealed a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, saying that court was wrong to throw out the case and a $550,000 fine against CBS Corp. in July. The appellate court cited the FCC practice of not considering objectionable images indecent if they are ‘fleeting.’. . . The FCC contends the rule didn’t apply to images.”
Fleeting, indeed, are my memories of this totally dumb-ass incident.

Artists should have same tax deductions as collectors when donating works of art
The Art Newspaper, 11/19/2008
“By creating a tax incentive for these donations-donors receive a tax deduction for the fair market value of works of art they donate-the US Congress has supported the development of non- profit art institutions and expanded the public audience for art. But artists donating their own works receive a deduction only for the cost of materials used to create the work, for example canvas and paint. The Art Dealers Association of America believes this standard is inequitable and is lobbying the government to change the law. The Artist Museum Partnership Act is a bi-partisan bill currently before Congress that would allow artists to donate under the same conditions as art collectors.”
The idea that this is even a possibility is encouraging. Just imagine a nation in which artists actually have some political — and well as fiscal — status.

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City pledges $50,000 to help match arts grant
Charleston Post and Courier (SC), 11/26/2008
“The Charleston City Council voted Tuesday to contribute $50,000 from the city’s hospitality fee fund to partially match an expected $250,000 grant from a private foundation that would aid the cash-strapped Charleston Stage, Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Charleston Ballet Theatre.”
Given the size of the deficits these groups are running, let us hope this is enough to stave off bankruptcy in some of these cases. Read the article to see just how bad the numbers are.

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High hopes for arts-friendly president
San Francisco Chronicle, 11/22/2008
The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Americans for the Arts’ recent policy webinar. Although “[t]he Obama team was not ready to speak on the record about the specifics of any proposals,” Americans for the Arts staff praised his platform on the arts. Another dominating theme was the effect of the recession on funding. According to Massachusetts state senator Stan Rosenberg, “Facing plunging tax revenues and heavier obligations to fund the ‘absolute necessities’ of health care and education, states and cities will be hard-pressed to find money for other programs, including the arts.” Creative political solutions will be key.
Of course! And keeping the pressure on, too.

Big Players Scale Back Charitable Donations
Wall Street Journal, 11/25/2008
“The pipeline from corporate America to the nation’s charities is starting to dry up, as losses in the stock market mount and the U.S. recession deepens. With many large organizations depending on corporate largesse, their futures are suddenly uncertain. Billionaires and large banks are pulling back on commitments or scaling back pledges. Some generous givers, such as Bear Stearns Cos., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co., have folded or been bought. The pain is spreading to other big institutional donors and trickling down to New York’s famously lavish charity-gala scene, which is suffering lower turnouts and fund-raising hauls. On Monday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said it would slow the pace of grants next year — a sign that even the titans of philanthropy are rattled by current economic conditions.”
Waaaah, for the Gates Foundation. A billion here, a billion there — so what? And the Gates Foundation isn’t arts-supporting in any event.

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Hard times for the arts
Baltimore Sun, 11/23/2008
“Due to stock market turmoil, endowments [are dropping], limiting the money that can be withdrawn for operating expenses. State grants have been cut significantly. And some arts groups have seen a drop in ticket sales. . . . Stories of the economy’s impact on the arts pop up almost daily around the country. Within the last few weeks, Opera Pacific in Southern California’s wealthy Orange County closed its doors. A little farther north, a consortium of orchestras in Pasadena canceled half of this season’s remaining concerts and furloughed its executive director. Despite strong advance ticket sales, the Washington National Opera has postponed its much-anticipated production of Wagner’s Ring, a four-part cycle of operas, because the company could not find donors for the remaining $5 million-plus needed for the project. At the San Francisco Opera and New York’s Metropolitan Opera, there is talk of fewer and less expensive productions next season.”
This isn’t news, but it doesn’t have a good perspective on what any of us with a brain should be calling a major crisis in the making.

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Loss of Connection Leading Reason Wealthy Donors Stop Giving, Study Finds
Philanthropy News Digest, 11/25/2008
“Nearly 60 percent of wealthy households who stop giving to a charitable organization attribute the change in their philanthropic behavior to no longer feeling connected to the organization, a new study from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and Bank of America finds. . . . Other reasons why wealthy donors discontinue their giving include deciding to support other causes (51 percent) and feeling they are being solicited too often (42 percent). The report also found that wealthy donors have high expectations of charitable organizations and cite sound business practices (93 percent) and spending an appropriate amount on overhead (88 percent) as the top factors in determining which organizations they decide to support. According to the report, a desire to give back to the community was the leading motivation for giving (81 percent), while public recognition was essentially a non-factor (10 percent).”
What I don’t understand is how being solicited too often constitutes “loss of connection.”

Wallace Foundation awards $7.7M to local arts groups
Seattle Times (WA), 11/19/2008
“The New York-based Wallace Foundation arts and cultural philanthropy will award $7.7 million to nine Seattle arts groups and the Washington State Arts Commission, with groups receiving $500,000 to $750,000 grants aimed at audience development. . . . The effort is part of the nationwide Wallace Excellence Awards, which uses a “city-based” approach to broaden the audiences and visibility of visual- and performing-arts groups. Past city recipients include Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, with arts institutions in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., also receiving Wallace funds this year.”
And New York? To hell with New York?