Arts Advocacy Update XCVII: Slicing and Dicing

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of August 12, 2009. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Fractional Gifts Bill Introduced in Senate
The Wall Street Journal, 8/8/2009

“Donating art to museums could soon become attractive again for wealthy collectors. Reacting to museums’ complaints of sharp declines in art donations, a bill announced [August 7] by Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, could revive the practice of so-called fractional gifts by making the process easier and more tax-advantageous. Before the 2006 Pension Protection Act, collectors were allowed a tax break when they donated a work of art incrementally, giving away a certain percentage of rights to the work each year. Pieces like the Hope Diamond, given to Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Annenberg Collection can be attributed to fractional giving. Restrictions in the act prevented donors from realizing tax benefits on the appreciation of the art’s value and limited the time allotted to complete the donation to 10 years.”
What I’d like to see are statistics on how fractional giving has benefitted the donors as well as the museums themselves. What happens if the market doesn’t rise?

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Encouraging the White House’s Open Door Policy to the Arts
NewMusicBox.org, 8/5/2009
“Because of an uncoordinated government infrastructure, the arts community has, over the years, come to view public policy as highly agency-specific. We’re good friends with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, but have until recently been strangers at places like the White House, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Copyright Office. And, though the NEA has long been the most visible symbol of our government’s commitment to art and culture (or in some cases, lack of), its miniscule budget means that its actual impact is largely symbolic and generally limited to touring, presentation, and participation in the traditional and classical disciplines. Yet the entire field continues to grow, necessitating a broader view of policy and public funding for the arts.”
I’m not sure about one piece of this — the “largely symbolic” effect of the NEA’s budget. If the agency is not to be sent off on its own in some sort of public-private enterprise, certainly the funding should go up. Still, even as it is and as it has been, the NEA confers not only status but fiscal impact. Unless you’re Jeremy Gerard of Bloomberg News and don’t believe in fiscal impact, of course.

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Washington: Seattle Arts Groups Marketing Differently to Younger Audiences
The Seattle Times, 8/9/2009
“As core arts audiences grow older and attendance declines among young people, big arts organizations across the country are reaching out to potential new audiences in innovative ways. Seattle has become a center for this kind of outreach. The attempts to create a broader base of attendees are taking many forms and using many tools, from reality TV-style webcasts to social networking sites, dance nights, and scavenger hunts. The Seattle Opera selected the engaging Cassidy Quinn Brettler of Seattle to host its reality series-and to blog, Tweet and post updates about it on Facebook. Brettler, 20, said she was worried when she found out the Ring cycle involved going to operas for some 16 hours over four nights…But now that she’s visited the costume shop, tried on a winged helmet and done some stunt flying in the harnesses that allow the opera’s Rhinemaidens to fly, ‘it’s made me excited to see the final opera.'”
Many people should be afforded those “immerse yourself” opportunities. Politicians, too. It’s one of the best ways to demystify the arts.

Texas: Fort Worth Budget Proposal Cuts Arts Funding by 24 Percent
Star-Telegram, 8/11/2009
Due to the lagging economy, city officials have offered a budget that provides 24 percent less funding for social service and arts agencies for FY2010. “More than 200 jobs would be cut” and “two library branches, several after-school programs, and swimming pools would be shuttered under a proposal to close a $59 million budget gap, city officials said [August 11]. ‘You’re going to see a leaner Fort Worth,’ Mayor Mike Moncrief said. ‘You’re going to see a little bit different Fort Worth.’ Fort Worth has been struggling for the last two years to cut its spending, which has grown faster than its tax base. The recession made the problem worse; sales taxes are projected to drop in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, and property taxes are expected to stay flat. Almost every department will be affected by the staff cuts, except for the Police and Fire Departments. The plan calls for laying off 114 active employees and eliminating 74 vacant positions. Another 42 people are expected to retire; if they don’t, more employees could be laid off. The cuts will save $10 million a year.”
Libraries, of course, being a frill…

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North Carolina: Charlotte Public Art Installation Raises Concerns
Charlotte Observer, 8/10/2009
“The Shuffletown project, with its [17-foot base and giant] mechanical hand, represents waving goodbye to the area’s past and hello to its future. The county spent a total of $72,750 on the art. But [local resident] Bill Jones said some nearby residents and others who have seen the piece feel the hand is waving goodbye and writing off an older neighborhood along with its racing and agricultural history. ‘A lot of the people that I showed the hand to said they should have broken off four fingers and left one up there,’ said Jones, who lives in the Thomasboro area but serves on the county park department’s Northwest District Advisory Council. Some neighbors raised their concerns at a community meeting last year, and Jones said the advisory council also came out against the piece.”
I’m all for public art, but even I have to say that this object is a little bit nutty. I kind of don’t get it. What else might there be — talk to the hand? The fist bump? Seems odd.

New Hampshire: State Arts Council Forced to Cut Grant Funding
New Hampshire Business Review, 8/6/2009
“The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts has instituted a series of stringent cutbacks, the result of a drastically reduced budget. The cuts will eliminate jobs and many programs, including the annual Governor’s Arts Awards. According to council director Rebecca Lawrence, the council, which is funded through state and federal appropriations as well as funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and private donations, had a total budget of $1,205,574 for fiscal year 2010, some $300,000 less than last year’s budget of $1,525,900. The cut came as a result of a more than 30 percent reduction in state funding. ‘In FY09, we received $881,700 from the state. To maintain our programs as is, we needed $909,146 for FY10. We received $602,487 for FY10,’ said Lawrence. She said the overall $1.2 million budget for the 2010 fiscal year will probably be even lower the following year, since some funds were granted on a one-time basis.”
This is rough. But get ready because this is nothing compared to what is going to happen in FY2011. Trust me. Bad times are going to be here for a while.

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Florida: Sarasota Foundation Offers $1 Million for Nonprofit Capacity Building
Philanthropy News Digest, 8/10/2009
“The Community Foundation of Sarasota County has announced the launch of a $1 million initiative designed to help local nonprofits maintain their service levels during the recession. The initiative, BOOST: Building Organizations’ Operational Strength Today, will provide $30,000 in basic fundraising training to 35 nonprofits in Sarasota and Manatee counties through the foundation’s nonprofit resource center. The effort also will provide $50,000 to the Friendship Volunteer Center for marketing and outreach efforts designed to increase volunteerism and civic engagement throughout Sarasota County. In addition, the foundation committed $720,000 to support area nonprofits that have been in operation for at least three years, with a focus on building their capacity and improving their business practices. And to jump-start its annual Season of Sharing campaign, which runs from late November to mid-January, the foundation pledged $200,000 and challenged donors to contribute an additional $300,000 to underwrite the cost of food, shelter, and other necessities for needy families and individuals.”
This is great stuff, but my question is this: With the fundraising training done, where is the philanthropy going to come from? Is it there? Or is it going to tighten even further the extreme competitiveness out there for a shrinking pool of money? See the story below, too.

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When Needed Most, Fundraiser Positions Being Cut
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 8/11/2009
“Laying off fund raisers is usually one of the last steps nonprofit groups take in an economic crisis. But as the longest and deepest recession in decades persists, even fund raisers are among the people getting pink slips. At colleges, hospitals, and other large nonprofit groups, chief development officers are increasingly looking to pare expenses through layoffs and other approaches, such as salary and hiring freezes, furloughs, and staff reorganizations.”
See above. Where does this end? It’s like getting rid of your director of advertising at a newspaper.