Arts Advocacy Update XCVIII: Tech Talk and Tick Tock

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of August 19, 2009. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Florida: Two Clearwater Organizations Form Partnership for the Arts
Tampa Bay Business Journal, 8/18/2009
“The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce (CRCC) and the Clearwater Arts Foundation are forming an alliance. The organizations believe that art has a significant economic impact on the economy and cultural institutions can play a key role in economic revitalization, a [press] release said. The chamber will work in conjunction with the Arts Foundation to host artist symposiums in order to work on marketing, strategic planning, and related topics. The CRCC will become a clearinghouse for artists and the two organizations will link to each other’s websites…In support of the new partnership, the chamber will launch a cultural tourism committee open to its members.”
Interesting factoid: the CRCC, “established in 1922, now represents more than 1,400 member businesses.”

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New Jersey: Developer’s Revitalization Plan Hinges on Theater
Courier Post, 8/17/2009
“The performing arts could launch Woodbury’s much-needed downtown revitalization, city officials, business owners, and a local developer said. Brian Wolfson, a residential and retail developer from Haddonfield, has multimillion dollar plans to transform the historic G.G. Green Block building, which many officials believe is the key building of Woodbury’s downtown, into a performance theater for local arts groups, shops, and restaurants. ‘There’s overwhelming data of what the arts can do for a city’s downtown, but there’s also overwhelming data that shows how difficult the arts are to fund and maintain,’ he said Friday morning outside the building. ‘A theater in Woodbury could bring in 30,000 people a year and have them spilling in the streets at night.'”
Of course, don’t share any of this with Jeremy Gerard of Bloomberg News, who considers the fiscal-impact argument “tired and dubious.”

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Connecticut: Bridgeport Residents Launching New Local Arts Agency
The Bridgeport News, 8/14/2009
“Funding has been received to form the Bridgeport Cultural Council (BCC) as a means of recruiting artists and creative businesses to the Park City. The plan is for the BCC to establish a professionally staffed Bridgeport Cultural Affairs Office to be overseen by a citizen commission. Most of the first-year funding has been provided by the Fairfield County Community Foundation. The goal is to raise funds and develop policies, programs, and facilities to attract artists and arts-related businesses to the city. The BCC also will develop a three-year plan to bolster the city’s nonprofit cultural organizations.”
Let’s keep an eye on this. Bridgeport needs the focus and this could be beneficial to that depressed city.

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Florida: Sarasota Arts Council Restructures to Focus Efforts on Lobbying
HeraldTribune.com, 8/18/2009
“The Sarasota County Arts Council is hoping to raise the profile and awareness of the arts in the community and among business and government leaders by restructuring its operations to put a greater focus on lobbying for the arts. The plan, which was announced at a news conference on [August 18], is to allow arts groups to speak in a unified voice to promote their efforts with the public, government agencies, and business interests. ‘We are what makes this community unique,’ said Larry Thompson, the president of the Ringling College of Art and Design, and the chairman of the council’s new board. ‘There are lots of towns in Florida with beaches, but none with the combination of arts organizations that you find in Sarasota.’ All but four of the council’s 14 board members resigned after a reorganization vote last week.”
According to the piece, “Recent studies have shown that Sarasota’s arts groups generate about $131 million into the economy. Combined, they are the county’s fifth-largest employer.” So I’m not sure I understand why 10 board members resigned. Also, does this mean that the arts council will not be a government agency or nonprofit? Is it going the 501(c)(6) route?

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Michigan: $3 Million Provided to Arts Groups Within Six Hours
Detroit Free Press, 8/18/2009
“What happens when 10,000 people all at once try to donate to the arts through a single web portal? Gridlock, furious patrons, embarrassed officials and a classic good news-bad news story that saw $3.75 million raised for local cultural groups but also left a trail of anger and frustration throughout the arts community. Technical problems sabotaged the Community Foundation Challenge, an online $1-million matching grant program for about 75 cultural groups in metro Detroit. Scores of donors were prevented from making gifts and others wasted hours in front of their computers. Some patrons had their credit cards charged multiple times. In recognition of the technical difficulties, the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan made an additional $250,000 in matching funds available at 6 p.m. Those funds ran out at 9 p.m., ending the challenge…Despite the technical snafus, the entire $1 million originally pledged by the Community Foundation was claimed by 3:30 p.m. Since the foundation matched each dollar donated with 50 cents of its own, a total of $3 million was funneled to local arts groups in less than six hours. But the problems tempered enthusiasm for a unique program designed to promote Internet-based marketing and fund-raising and provide critical support to arts groups hard hit by the recession.”
This is sad. Michigan needs something better than this. At least there’ll be more money in the kitty, but this doesn’t bode well for the use of technology, does it.

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