Arts Advocacy Update XCII: Keeping Bizzy

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Cultural Policy Listserv email blast of July 8, 2009:

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Leach to Highlight Humanities, Culture in New Role
Chicago Tribune, 7/5/2009
“If confirmed by the Senate, [Jim] Leach would lead a grant-giving organization (the National Endowment for the Humanities) with a $155 million budget that supports research, education and public programs in the humanities. Confirmation hearings are planned later this summer. The United States is entering a new dawn in its relationship with the humanities, Leach said, pointing to Obama’s June 4 speech in Cairo about America’s relationship with Muslim communities as an example. ‘What was profound about it was not that he advanced any particular policy,’ Leach said. ‘He attempted to talk about culture in a meaningful way.'”
And this, by the way, is going to greatly upset certain well-entrenched constituencies in Washington, D.C. This whole idea that the president is going to address culture, incorporate culture as part of a national policy strategy, is so alien an idea that people are probably going to freak out. Well, good — the economy needs its artists, its cultural avatars, and those too ignorant to recognize this will find themselves miserable standing on the platform as the train leaves the station. Leach is not always my favorite ex-pol, but he’s a decent one.

Kennedy Center President Echoes Call for Overarching Federal Arts Policy
HuffingtonPost.com, 7/6/2009
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts President Michael Kaiser wrote an opinion piece on the establishment of a federal arts policy earlier this week. The following is a quote from that article: “What we really need is a debate over federal arts policy. Most people do not know that no fewer than nine government agencies provide support to arts in this nation. That is not a typo. In addition to the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, arts money is also granted by the Departments of Commerce, Education, State, Agriculture, Defense, and Transportation! Those of us in the arts are grateful for the many opportunities presented for federal support. The problem is that there is literally no coordination between these agencies on their arts spending, nor is there any central governing philosophy or policy. For example, grants for arts education are given by several agencies yet there is no effort to coordinate the educational programming of the arts organizations receiving federal funds. This cannot yield the most effective or efficient results.”
All of which is true, isn’t there a difference between calling for a “debate over federal arts policy” and suggesting the lack of coordination in arts education grants and programming begets the taxpayer inefficient government?

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Educating Artists in Business-A Critical Workforce Skill
Madison Magazine, 7/2009
“Under the current paradigm, artists graduate with excellent skills in their chosen field. But their careers don’t get off the ground, or they’re not as successful as they could be, because they never learned how to create a solid business plan or handle bookkeeping and taxes. Or they never thought about how to approach fundraising or grant writing or marketing to bring in audiences…Stephanie Jutt and Samantha Crownover, the artistic and executive directors of the venerable Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and its annual chamber music festival, are the forces behind the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arts Enterprise Symposium, as well as the Arts Enterprise Initiative they started in 2008 to remedy the shortcomings of traditional arts education and create a support system for artists. The event’s goals were multifaceted: to explore and encourage the idea of arts entrepreneurship, teach artists business tools and tactics, and provide models and mentors.”
All of which is great, but when will people in the arts start holding universities — by which I mean the big, trend-setting universities — responsible for the egregious manner in which they opt not to educate students in such matters. New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, for example, has a terrible record when it comes to preparing young actors, playwrights and designers for the fiscal rigors of the real world. This is the list of courses for the undergraduate dramatic writing program at Tisch. Strong on academics, weak on the real world. Just the way they like it.

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Texas: Facing Opposition, City Council Finds Arts Funding Mechanism
Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 6/30/2009
“The city’s art and cultural museums will escape cuts that would have slashed city funding by about 76 percent, city officials announced [June 28]. The move brought a standing ovation from more than 100 people wearing stickers and holding signs advocating for the arts who had packed the City Council Chambers, planning to lobby for funding…About $433,000 will be transferred from the general fund to the arts budget, which is normally paid for with hotel occupancy taxes. That shift in funding will cost the city in other areas including the indefinite postponement of a charter amendment election that had been planned for November. Voters were set to decide on five proposed charter amendments, including proposed changes to council members’ term limits and an increase to council members’ salaries.”
A shocker in this reddest of red states. Good for them. But the fight will go on.

Connecticut: Arts Groups Prepare for Worst as Budget Discusssions Continue
Hartford Courant, 7/4/2009
“To balance the state budget, Gov. M. Jodi Rell has proposed eliminating about $30 million in state arts and tourism grants to local government and arts institutions over the next two fiscal years. Rell has also proposed collapsing the state Commission on Culture and Tourism into the Department of Economic and Community Development. The extent of the cuts will not be clear until final budget proposals are worked out with legislative leaders this summer. But local and regional arts groups aren’t waiting for the torturously slow budget process to end. Certain that cuts to the arts are inevitable, they are already dramatically curbing their spending.”
Awful. I hope they fight this using the economic-impact argument that has been so successful, or at least a power disincentive, elsewhere.

Report: Foundations Increasingly Support Journalism
Philanthropy News Digest, 7/7/2009
“Foundations are playing a significant role in addressing the current crisis in journalism and helping to combat the disappearance of critical news and information sources, according to a new report from the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. The report, Philanthropic Foundations: Growing Funders of the News, which includes interviews with leaders in journalism, philanthropy, education, and the nonprofit sector, discovered that foundations have become increasingly involved with the journalism industry, supporting, for instance, topical journalism projects like Kaiser Health News and community news websites such as the Voice of San Diego.”
Yet I don’t think nonprofit journalism is really going to catch fire. I think there will be more of it, but the allure of real profit is going to impel people to try to be entrepreneurial. Not that I’m scoffing at foundation-supported journalism, I just don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all panacea.

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Foundation Center, Library of Congress Publish Preservation Fundraising Guide
Philanthropy News Digest, 6/25/2009
“The Foundation Center and the Library of Congress have issued the second edition of a fundraising guide designed to help the nation’s preservation community save at-risk historical and cultural artifacts for future generations. Published in consultation with Heritage Preservation, the latest edition of Foundation Grants for Preservation in Libraries, Archives, and Museums includes information on nearly 2,000 grants awarded by 488 foundations between 2004 and 2009 for projects related to preservation and conservation.”
You can download a PDF of the guide for free — just click here.

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New York City: A Snapshot of the Recession’s Impact on the Arts
Gotham Gazette, 7/6/2009
“New York’s artists have always lived in a state of flux. Up-and-coming artists from around the world have seen New York as the ultimate destination spot. Once here, they often have been urban pioneers, establishing creative enclaves in what had been derelict and industrial neighborhoods. Then the artists often lost their homes and studios as those areas became playgrounds for hungry developers. The current economic climate has only exacerbated the artists’ struggle, forcing them to reevaluate their options. As galleries close and art nonprofits suffer from cutbacks in funding and the loss of support from private institutions, artists must look for new outlets and resources in order to sustain themselves. Many have discovered alternative channels for showcasing their work and staying afloat financially.”
A great quote from a particularly well-researched article:

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“The positive of this economic downturn is that artists are creative — they’re using their resources to band together to do more events on their own. I believe that there will be a lot more alternative and tiny spaces cropping up in low rent neighborhoods around the city just like it did before.”