Arts Advocacy Update XCV: Reclamation, Recidivism and Recovery

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ email blast of July 29, 2009:

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First Lady: Kids Need Early Exposure to the Arts
Associated Press, 7/24/2009

“Later at the White House, Mrs. Obama addressed guests that included executives from Google, Target, and the Bravo TV network, among many others, lunching on White House china from the Bush, Truman, and Eisenhower administrations. She returned to an oft-stated theme: Kids need more than just a good education, they need exposure to the arts-and early. ‘An educational foundation is only part of the equation,’ the First Lady said. ‘In order for creativity to flourish and imagination to take hold, we also need to expose our children to the arts from a very young age.’ She said Albert Einstein had it right when he said imagination is more important than knowledge. ‘We need to ensure that our children have both-knowledge and imagination. I know I want that for my girls. They deserve to have access to a good education and access to ideas and images that will spark their creativity.’ She also spoke of her efforts ‘to break down barriers that too often exist between major cultural establishments and the people in their immediate communities.'”
We heart Mrs. Obama. But I question whether executives from those networks are really the right targets for this kind of conversation. Shouldn’t it equally include GOP leaders from deep red states who are so terrified of arts curricula?

Texas: Growing City Becomes Public Art Hub
The Dallas Morning News, 7/22/2009
“Public art has long been a priority in the Collin County suburb, where more than 100 pieces are on display. ‘You’ve got to have roads and police cars and fire trucks,’ said Richard Oldham, a former art teacher who became the city’s first public art manager two years ago. ‘But you also have to make sure you remain a draw and remain viable culturally so that people want to live here and people want to visit here.’ The Texas Sculpture Garden at Hall Office Park came first, from a developer’s private collection. In 2002, the city joined in, requiring that every municipal project set aside money for art. Now comes Newman Village, an upscale residential development that will open its gates to outsiders in the name of art.”
A lone star, indeed. Will be interesting to see if any of the aforementioned art becomes more valuable over time.

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Maryland: City of Baltimore Buys Historic Theatre
Baltimore Sun, 7/23/2009
“Baltimore City took ownership of the Senator Theatre after a brief and raucous auction [July 22], and officials say they want to move forward quickly to develop a permanent plan for the 70-year-old landmark. ‘The bottom line is, now it is in our hands,’ said Mayor Sheila Dixon. ‘We can move fast and aggressively to find the best, responsible business, be it profit or nonprofit, who can manage and handle this theater.’ City leaders want the theater to continue to show films or to showcase the performing arts and now will look for someone to own or operate the Senator. At least two prominent local businessmen-developer David Cordish and the Charles Theatre’s operator, James ‘Buzz’ Cusack-said they might be interested in running the venue under the right conditions. [The] auction drew one anonymous bid, for $800,000, and the city, which has owned the financially troubled theater’s mortgage since May, topped that by $10,000 to keep control of the theater.”
Scary that government would own a theater, right! With luck, Baltimore will steer this venue into the right situation. Of course, the venue currently shows films, and that’s fine, but perhaps there a more mixed-use possibility for the house.

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Oregon: Portland’s ‘Young Creatives’ Surviving Rough Economy
Associated Press, 7/26/2009
“The newcomers, called the ‘young creatives’ by local economists, have helped give Portland the reputation over the past two decades for being one of the hippest cities in the country. They have been lured by the city’s brew pubs; bicycle and mass transit culture; access to mountains and seacoast; and a tolerant, off-center way of life. Now, they are trying to hang on while hanging out. [Ceramics artist Heidi] Sowa cites the city’s love affair with bicycles and mass transit, its scale and its mood for her decision to stay. ‘It seems a small enough but a big enough place,’ she said. ‘It’s easy to meet people, and the art community is cohesive. People tend to be pretty easygoing and helpful, too. I haven’t met many abrasive people.’
And let’s not forget Coho Productions, founded by one of my personal heroes, Gary Cole, author of Artless: The Odyssey of a Republican Cultural Creative and currently running Theatre of the American South.

New York City: New Surveys Show Impact of Cultural Community on City Schools
BroadwayWorld.com, 7/24/2009

“The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable, an arts education service organization, [recently] released results from two surveys, both attesting to the enormous contribution the city’s cultural organizations make to arts teaching and learning in the city’s schools. The Roundtable’s annual Impact Survey reveals that in aggregate New York’s arts organizations spent more than 15 percent of their budgets on educational programs and raised tens of millions of dollars in 2007-08 for education programs in New York City public schools. The Roundtable’s first-ever Teaching Artist Census indicates that teaching artists, who deliver instruction and programs in the schools for these groups, greatly outnumber licensed school-based arts specialists. The Impact Survey data are based on responses from 61 cultural organizations, ranging in size from major Manhattan-based institutions like the New York Philharmonic and the Guggenheim Museum to smaller groups in other boroughs like Youth on Target in Queens and Ten Penny Players on Staten Island.”
This is one situation in which outsourcing — which is essentially what’s gone on here — has really been beneficial. It’s also a way for artists to make a living — and it’s that potential that we have got to stress to our elected leaders for fiscal and other types of support. And let’s hope the Jane Remers of the world get the message.

Indiana: Arts Commission Ends Two Grant Programs, Scales Back Others
Inside Indiana Business, 7/28/2009
“The Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) announced today that two grant programs will be eliminated and additional programs scaled back to help address state budget reductions in excess of 20 percent for the current fiscal year. The announcement came as the result of an emergency session of the IAC on July 20 to review budget options resulting from the two-year state budget approved last month by the Indiana General Assembly…The State Budget Agency has mandated an additional five percent holdback to be added to State reserves for all state agencies…As a result of the reduction, the IAC considered three new budget plans for the current fiscal year…Two IAC grant programs, the Presenter Touring Program and the American Masterpieces Program, will be eliminated for the current fiscal year. The IAC’s Arts in Education Program will be cut by 50 percent, and the Individual Artist Program will be reduced by 20 percent.”
What can you say? There are going to have to be cuts everywhere — perhaps the IAC can at least be creative about it and not, so to speak, cut into bone. Destroying the creative economy infrastructure wholly does not fix the economy in part.

New Jersey: State Council Forced to Cut Grants to Organizations by 20 Percent
Newark Star-Ledger, 7/29/2009

“As recently as five years ago, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts had a record-breaking grants budget of almost $23 million that it used to support cutting-edge theater projects, a new opera company and dozens of mid-sized dance and musical groups. This year, its $14.4 million budget will barely keep the lights on at arts institutions all around the state. Faced with a cut of 25 percent to its funding, the arts council voted for across-the-boards cuts of about 20 percent to the state’s museum, theaters, and dance troupes. In order to keep the major institutions in business, the council had to suspend its grants to individual artists, keep the new grantees to a paltry four, and discontinue grants to eight previously funded organizations. ‘It’s been a tough year, and next year promised to be equally challenging,’ said New Jersey Secretary of State Nina Mitchell, who described this as “a period of crisis.’ ‘We know how much you’re suffering, but what I think is impressive is how it is made seamless to the public,’ she said.”
Like I said about with regard to the IAC, it’s the same thing here. If artists and arts leaders think it’s been a bad year, wait until 2010 and 2011. Mark my words. This, by the way, is a particularly sad graph from the story:

The biggest losers included the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, which received $1,098,651, a drop of $274,663 and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, whose grant of $1,029,447 was $257,362 less than last year. The council cut almost $200,000 from its arts marketing program, reducing that grant to $462,700.

Pennsylvania: Editorial Applauds Arts Advocate Rally at the Capitol
The Patriot-News, 7/28/2009
“Recently more than 300 people representing arts and cultural groups from across Pennsylvania stood in our Capitol’s rotunda to protest the possible elimination of state aid for the arts. They were just the latest in a long stream of folks who have made their way to the rotunda in the last few months to make their case to the governor and state legislators…To see some of the rallies is to see people who deeply care for institutions and causes that they believe make a real difference in the lives of the people they serve and the quality of life in their communities and our state. It is an amazing thing to see folks from throughout Pennsylvania make their way to Harrisburg in an effort to push a cause or institution they believe makes a difference. We all know our government officials are going to have to make compromises they will not entirely like in order to get us over this budget impasse. So far, the process hasn’t been filled with too many Profiles in Courage moments. One of the silver linings of the process, however, has been to see people from throughout the commonwealth show how much they truly care.”
This editorial should be widely distributed. It’s about time newspapers, or what’s left of them, began speaking out on this issue, too. Arts advocates in Pennsylvania must be enormously gratified.

New Jersey: Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Rescues Arts Groups
Courier-Post, 7/25/2009
“There was a time when the arts could take funding for granted. But in a recession, local cultural groups are showing the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation extra appreciation for its grants. The Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, Symphony in C, and the Appel Farm Arts and Music Center shared in more than $10 million of grants announced [July 23]. ‘These grants represent 95 percent of our total grantmaking for 2009,’ said David Grant, President & CEO of the Foundation, in a statement. ‘In recognition of these difficult financial times, the board and staff moved all of its grantmaking into the first six months of this year in order to assist our grantees with cash flow and budget projections.’ Of the 220 grants, the foundation awarded 79 grants totaling $2.73 million to arts organizations in New Jersey and others that serve the state.”
Everybody’s worry, of course, is that major arts-support organizations like the Dodge will not (or will not be able to) repeat their goodwill in 2010 and 2011. It all depends on the market…

Iowa: Federal Stimulus Funds Save Over 300 Arts Jobs
Quad-City Times, 7/22/2009

Nearly $500,000 in federal stimulus money is being spread to 18 arts organizations in 10 cities, preserving a total of 323 jobs according to Gov. Chet Culver’s office. “Arts advocates say the money is much-needed, especially now, as the economic downturn is threatening a variety of arts organizations…The $787 billion federal stimulus package, approved in February, included $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, a controversial item that prompted some critics to claim the money was being wasted. Iowa officials say the funds are actually going to groups that may have lost staff if they didn’t get the help. ‘We’re hearing from a lot of organizations that this is a really, really tough time for them,’ said Mary Sundet Jones, administrator for the Iowa Arts Council, which helped distribute $325,200 to 14 organizations. The National Endowment for the Arts also approved $150,000 in stimulus money for arts organizations in Amana, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Dubuque. The governor’s office said the stimulus money preserved 34 full-time and 104 part-time jobs, as well as 185 contract positions.”
Obviously the money isn’t being wasted. That cultural-warfare talk from the right. They should be responded to with equal warfare. It’s one thing to be a fiscal conservative. It’s another thing to be a propagandist extremist.

Rhode Island: State Arts Council Receives Stimulus Money, Foundation Funds
The Providence Journal, 7/28/2009
“Governor Carcieri and members of the state congressional delegation has joined more than 100 members of the arts community to announce the arrival of nearly $300,000 in federal stimulus money for the arts. The Rhode Island Foundation contributed an additional $100,000 to the federal stimulus package, which allowed the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts to support a total of 18 organizations. The money will allow the recipients to restore or retain 77 positions in the arts, from free performances of Shakespeare in Westerly to after-school art teachers. These grants are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a federal stimulus program designed to aid in the economic recovery of the state and the country.”
I refer to the comments regarding the item up above.

Finally, two announcements…

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Grantmakers in the Arts 2009 Recession Conference
Navigating the Art of Change, a conference designed to help arts funders navigate the recession, will provide participants with concrete ideas, new best practices, current research, opportunities to exchange information, and a structured effort to build strategies for the field as we move forward. The 2009 conference will be a working meeting designed to help funders manage the changes in the nonprofit arts environment they are facing daily. The agenda will begin and end with sessions designed to bring funders of comparable mission and scale together to articulate their needs and share their best practices. The conference will be held in Brooklyn, NY from October 18-21, 2009. Featured presenters include pollster John Zogby, jazz artist Wynton Marsalis, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and the Urban Bushwomen. For more information, please visit the conference website.

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National Arts and Humanities Month
Be one of the 10,000 communities and millions of people who celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month every October. Start your planning today by visiting the NAHM website, where you can find planning and advocacy toolkits, as well as free downloads of the NAHM logo and web stickers that can easily be placed on websites, blogs, and social network user profiles. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nahm or friend us on Facebook. The NAHM national arts events map is launching in August, and we want to include your October calendars, program information, and volunteer opportunities. For more information, contact Americans for the Arts at nahm@artsusa.org.

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