Arts Advocacy Update XCIV: See It, Believe It



The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Cultural Policy Listserv email blast of July 22, 2009:

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Virginia: Small Town Begins Economic Reinvention through the Arts
Bristol Herald Courier (Tennessee), 7/20/2009
“This little town might be the next Asheville, at least according to the buzz downtown.
It’s been a sudden, subtle change, but seemingly overnight, the same sort of art galleries and crafty, eclectic shops that define that North Carolina tourist center are popping up in Abingdon, VA, another artsy mountain town that some say is on the verge of discovering its creative economy. As a regional artisan center prepares to break ground and Abingdon’s existing arts center prepares for a major overhaul, the downtown area is seeing a wave of creative entrepreneurs setting up shop. ‘I believe we’re at the beginning of a new art renaissance,’ said John Buckland, owner of the newly opened Blue Windmill Galleries and one of the men behind the Arts Association of Abingdon, which seeks to bring all of Abingdon’s art venues under one marketing umbrella.”
And where the artists go the developers could go. Revitalization rules — but there need to be rules to protect those who are about to invest and shop in this area. Anyone want to investigate?

New York City: Broadway Stage Spotlights African-American Culture
Reuters, 7/12/2009
“Both on Broadway and off-Broadway, plays and musicals about black culture or issues of race are being praised and more productions are in the works…
The election of the first black U.S. president is having an enormous influence on culture and theater, [playwright Tracey Scott] Wilson said. ‘Obama is everywhere,’ she said. ‘This is a seismic event.’
Some plays shown off-Broadway include Ruined by New York playwright Lynn Nottage, about rape in a Congolese brothel; Inked Baby by Christina Anderson about environmental racism; and Carlyle Brown’s Pure Confidence, a drama set in the world of Civil War-era horse racing.
On Broadway, Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, sold well; a musical revival of Dreamgirls about a group of black musicians opens in November; and a new musical, Memphis, that opens in October looks at the roots of rock ‘n’ roll set against the segregation polices of the 1950s U.S. South.”
Just imagine if Reuters had looked a little deeper — and found the enormously fertile ground of Off-Off-Broadway, where so much is also going on. Guess we can’t scare the nation with that, right?

Minnesota: Two State Arts Education Organizations Merge, 7/13/2009

“Arts education organizations COMPAS and Young Audiences of MN (YAMN) merged this month, and the new entity (which retains the name COMPAS) will combine the rosters of artists and arts education programs to save money and be more effective. W
orking with teachers, schools, and communities, the merged organization will serve nearly 600,000 Minnesotans in the coming school year. Young Audiences of MN, an affiliate of Young Audiences, Inc., based in New York City, has worked with elementary schoolchildren in Minneapolis, while COMPAS works with schools in St. Paul and throughout Minnesota. Both organizations also have separate programs, such as YAMN’s Real Art + Real Kids, St. Joseph’s Home for Children partnership, and Milkweed Edition’s Alliance for Reading, and COMPAS’ Arts in Health Care, ArtsWork, United Arts Fund, and grant-making programs. The groups began planning the merger last year, and they’ve worked on combining programs in recent months.”
I’ll be curious to see how this plays out. For the midwest, where arts education isn’t always a topic agreed upon by various sides, there may be an opportunity here to do some long-term studies on the effect of arts education on students. Not a moment too soon if so.

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Ohio: State Arts Council Budget Reduced 47 Percent
Port Clinton News Herald, 7/21/2009

“Governor Ted Strickland’s approval of the state budget on July 17 set the final biennium budget appropriation for the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) at only $13,188,578 for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Out of all state of Ohio agencies, the OAC received one of the largest percentage reductions for the biennium. This new funding represents a 38 percent reduction from the final 2008/2009 appropriation of $21.3 million and a 47 percent reduction from the original 2008/2009 appropriation of $24.9 million. The $13.2 million figure, the amount recommended to the Conference Committee by the Governor in June, is a huge decrease from the original Executive recommendation of $18.8 million the Governor proposed in February. The result is an agency budget that is reduced to 1984-85 levels.”
And reduced to a 1984-85 mentality. It’s sad because Strickland is a Democrat and a smart one. Why oh why oh why oh.

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Connecticut: Hartford Mayor Provides Over $1 Million for Arts Stimulus
Hartford Advocate, 7/15/2009
“With just $1.1 million to cover more than $5 million in requests, Hartford’s arts stimulus program was bound to leave somebody disappointed, but even those who didn’t get grants were glad to see the city making an effort to support the arts…Mayor Eddie Perez announced the stimulus program in his State of the City address in March, saying it would ‘create and retain’ about 200 jobs in Hartford. Perez vetoed an attempt by the city council to cut the program roughly in half during contentious budget negotiations and the appropriation made it into the final budget intact. Another $600,000 in federal money for the arts will also become available later in the year.”
Would love some analysis of how $1 million works out to 200 jobs — is this efficient or inefficient? Perhaps Ian David Moss might have some insight into how these numbers parse.

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Foundation Center Launches Tool to Visualize Impact of Philanthropy
Philanthropy News Digest, 7/17/2009
“The New York City-based Foundation Center has announced the launch of a data visualization tool to help grantmakers, policy makers, researchers, and others better understand the impact of philanthropy around the world.
Philanthropy In/Sight allows registered users to create customized Google maps to explore giving patterns, emerging trends, and funding relationships globally, nationally, or at the community level. Updated weekly, the center’s data on some 97,000 grantmakers and more than 1.6 million grants can be combined with dozens of demographic and socioeconomic data overlays to create mashups that help users understand where foundation dollars are having the greatest effect and where funding is most needed. Users can click on pins on a map for details about funders, recipients, and grants; display giving geographically by country, state, county, city, metro area, congressional district, or ZIP code; and choose from among 26 fields of interest and 1,100 specialty areas. With support from national foundations, the center also plans to offer In/Sight to regional associations of grantmakers and funder affinity groups free of charge for one year through their organizations’ membership sites.”

This is a great idea — it’ll also highlight areas in which giving needs some, well, giving.

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Michigan: Regional Arts Organization Receives $1 Million Challenge Grant
Detroit Free Press, 7/16/2009
“Give arts groups money and you help them pay the bills today. Teach them to how to use the Internet to reach new donors and audiences and you might help them truly secure their future.
That’s the thinking behind a $1 million challenge grant announced today by the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan. The grant is tied to an online marketing and fundraising initiative that could generate as much as $3 million in operating funds for about 80 member groups of the Cultural Alliance of Southeast Michigan.
The money comes at a critical time for metro Detroit’s arts organizations, which have lost millions of dollars in corporate, individual and government support during the recession and have been forced to lay off staff, cut salaries and eliminate artistic programs. The grant also underscores the increasingly important role local foundations are playing in helping to sustain local arts groups, from large institutions like the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to midsize and grassroots groups.”
Thank God. Michigan is such a mess — this might be a nongovernmental way to help out nonprofit arts groups in the state that are really on the brink of something momentously disastrous.

Georgia: NEA Stimulus Funds Save Arts Jobs
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/19/2009
“More than 40 nonprofits told the Fulton County Arts Council they had to curb salaries or cut a position either late last year or in early 2009, said Veronica Williams Njoku, the council’s director. Others warned of cuts to come-some needed $5,000 to make payroll, others needed $50,000.
Njoku learned recently that the arts council has a chance to save some of those jobs with $250,000 in federal stimulus money, funneled through the National Endowment for the Arts. The arts council, in turn, will award the money to some of the 104 nonprofits it helps fund annually. ‘These are organizations that have had to downsize staffing and programming and yet are still trying to maintain a high level of service and quality,’ Njoku said…’They need the money today,’ said Flora Maria Garcia, CEO of the Metro Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition. ‘If you look at [the arts community] as any other business, it’s a business that is fragile and is in great danger right now.’ The Atlanta arts community has suffered from recession-fueled cuts in audiences, donors, endowments and public funding. The Georgia Council of the Arts, part of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office, had its fiscal 2010 budget slashed 37 percent-one of the largest cuts when compared with other agencies.”
Perdue is an imbecile, but that’s just me being partisan. One should note, by the way, that nine nonprofits in Georgia are receiving direct grants from the NEA, totaling $625,000. They include:

Atlanta Ballet, Inc.

Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Inc.

Center for Puppetry Arts

Fulton County Arts Council

National Black Arts Festival

Phoenix Theatre Academy, Inc.

Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center, Inc.

Sautee Nacoochee Community Association, Inc.

University of Georgia

Kansas City: Arts Fund Provides Recession Help to Local Arts Organizations
The Kansas City Star, 7/18/2009

“As arts groups nationwide struggle to survive the economic downturn, 59 Kansas City organizations recently got some good news. The ArtsKC Fund recently awarded almost $350,000 in grants to groups on both sides of the state line, from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which netted the biggest grant of $36,487, to the Kansas City, Kansas-based Arts in Prison Inc. That group received $2,047 to do arts programs in area prisons. ArtsKC supports the arts across the board, from theater, jazz and classical music to puppetry and ballroom dancing, from big museums to smaller community efforts. ‘The fund has created a source of new money for the arts community, which is essential as the cultural community continues to grow,’ says Jeff Bentley, executive director of the Kansas City Ballet, which received $15,042.”
Very good news, of course, but how does one effectively run an arts-in-prison program on $2,047? Not that it’s the only source of funding, of course, but is that just a dollop or what?

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Finally, a note about a funding opportunity…
Johnson & Johnson, working in partnership with the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, seeks to promote the use of the arts to enhance the healthcare experience for patients, their families, and caregivers. From 2001 to 2009, grants have been provided to 117 programs in the United States and Canada, representing leading models and initiatives in high quality healthcare through the use of arts. Proposals are now being sought from healthcare and/or arts organizations that have established healthcare programs with evidence of initial impact. For more information and eligibility requirements, please review the guidelines available on the Society for the Arts in Healthcare website. The letter of inquiry deadline is October 15, 2009.