Arts Advocacy Update CXI: Finishing the (Old) Hat

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Nov. 26, 2009. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Philadelphia Mayor Settles World Series Bet with a Paintbrush
Media Newswire, 11/23/09
“[New York} Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter today settled a first-of-its kind bet on the World Series by joining Publicolor to help paint [Junior High School] 131, the Albert Einstein School, in the Bronx. Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Nutter-founding members of Cities of Service, a new coalition of mayors working to increase volunteer activity in cities across the county-made the bet to encourage more people to give back to their communities. The terms of the bet dictated the losing mayor would travel to the winning city to join the winning mayor in a volunteer service project, while wearing the winning team’s jersey. Mayor Nutter honored the bet by painting while wearing a number 55 Yankees home jersey, in honor of World Series Most Valuable Player Hideki Matsui.”
At which point the Mayor bought not only the school, but all of Philadelphia and took a 40% stake in the rest of Pennsylvania.

New Jersey: Arts Council Plans Conversion of Firehouse to Arts Center
CentralJersey.com, 11/19/09
“Since it was built in the early 1930s, the Princeton Junction Firehouse had always been more than a home for firefighters; it was a center of the community…Members of the West Windsor Arts Council say tradition will continue once the building is renovated into a new arts center. With a range of classes, performances, and a space in which people can come and meet, the building promises to be every bit the community meeting place it was during its heyday, the council says…The council unveiled its plans for Phase I of the building’s renovations. Improvements include a 125-seat performance space with a moveable stage, space for classroom instruction, and a sitting/café area with WiFi. Phase II will include converting a three-bay garage into an art gallery and an area that used to be home to the department’s hook and ladder truck into instruction space.”
What I’d love is to see either Princeton University or the McCarter Theater Center get involved in some way — or at least lend public support. This is a great project — and a boon for the area.

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Mississippi: Governor Recommends 10.9 Percent Cut to K-12 Education
The Clarion-Ledger, 11/19/09
“Some education leaders this week said Gov. Haley Barbour’s K-12 budget recommendations would be almost impossible to implement, especially in one year. Yet if realized, the governor’s proposals for 2010-11 would impact a wide variety of areas like teachers’ salaries, the arts, and educating blind and deaf students. ‘There will not be a school district in the state that escapes without some type of significant impact when you’re talking about cuts of this magnitude,’ said Tom Burnham, who recently returned as state superintendent of education. Barbour has ‘very clearly conveyed the severity of the economic circumstance in this state,’ Burnham said. He added that his department will work with Barbour’s office and legislators to craft a budget proposal. The governor makes budget recommendations, but legislators craft the budget. Not all of the governor’s recommendations are included in the budget. The legislative session will start in January.”
But heaven forbid people should actually be taxed at a level where schools can be saved. This is the mantra of the ever-Republican Mississippi: keep ’em dumb, keep ’em poor and keep ’em from voting.

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Louisiana: Charter School Uses Arts Integration to Boost Student Achievement
The Times-Picayune, 11/19/09
“For the casual observer, a peek into the classroom of Brittany Tucker and Chris Kamenstein might raise eyebrows. Third graders twist their torsos as they move around the room. Some babble and mumble, while others are talking about eating bugs and resembling big pickles with one antenna. Welcome to Clancy School for the Arts in Kenner, LA, where such seemingly odd behavior is part of the curriculum. Kamenstein, an actor, and Tucker, the classroom teacher, have teamed up as part of a language arts lesson. In Marrero, similar lessons take place at Lincoln School for the Arts. Two years ago, Lincoln and Clancy became arts-based magnet schools, where theater, visual arts, music, and dance are integrated into math, science, reading, writing, and other core subjects. Officials targeted those two schools to help raise standardized test scores and attract a more diverse population under the Jefferson Parish public school district’s ongoing desegregation plan. ‘It’s not about talent; it’s a teaching method,’ Clancy Principal Lisa Kendrick said…’They are learning without even realizing it,’ Lincoln Principal Yelitza Gray said. ‘The arts pull them in.'”
Great story — though I suppose this terrifies most of the far-right. How dare they use creativity in teaching! We don’t want our children to think! Or do we?

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Washington: Advocates Protest Local Arts and Humanities Council Cuts
Kitsap Sun, 11/23/09
“Almost 100 arts supporters crowded into [Bainbridge Island] City Hall on [November 23] to protest the city’s diminished financial support for local cultural programs. Wearing red coats and scarves, protesters said last year’s budget cuts have hurt the island’s arts community. ‘The arts are a very susceptible target for budget cuts,’ said Tavis Hamilton, a senior at Bainbridge High School who is active in local musical theater. ‘But it really is the heart of society. If you cut the funding, you are cutting into a very red, throbbing heart.’ The city’s funding to the Bainbridge Arts and Humanities Council, which disperses arts funding to several organizations and programs, was reduced from $363,000 to $136,000 in 2009. The proposed 2010 budget shows support for BIAHC remaining at about $136,000.”
Economic impact, anyone? Seems like that would be the strongest argument here.

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Michigan: State Film Tax Credit Boosts Detroit’s Hotel Industry
MLive.com, 11/23/09
“While Michigan legislators continue to debate cutting or capping the state’s aggressive film industry tax credits, the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau says industry-related business is booming. According to figures the bureau released to Crain’s Detroit, film workers booked nearly 50,000 hotels in Metro Detroit in 2008 and 2009, spending around $5 million on rooms and another $5 million on food and beverage…Hospitality industry insiders say those numbers could have been even higher were it not for the ongoing legislative attempt to cap the tax credits. While the data looks good for the hotel industry, it could provide ammunition for critics who say the credits have failed to promote lasting industry infrastructure.”
But what is promoting lasting industry infrastructure? Such a spurious argument. Let them turn off the spigot and see how Detroit does. As if the city can afford to play fiscal games.

California: Report Names Los Angeles ‘Creative Capital of the World’
SmartPlanet.com, 11/19/09
“Los Angeles is now the ‘Creative Capital of the World,’ with one in every six people in the region employed in a creative field, according to a new report. According to the ‘2009 Otis Report on the Creative Economy’-sourced from the Otis College of Art and Design located in, you guessed it, Los Angeles-the city’s strong network of colleges and universities, its growth of new digital industries that attract skilled workers and (relatively) stable economy all help L.A. claim the throne as number one. Part of the reason is that digital media has taken off in the city. Unemployment may be affecting the country, but the report forecasts a 10 percent increase in employment for digital artists from now through 2013. That includes animators, digital effects artists, and motion graphics artists.”
Can Sacramento harness this properly? Could L.A., of all crazy things, lead California out of the fiscal wilderness. Oh, dare to dream!

Ohio: Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Awards Jazz Group $200,000
AllAboutJazz.com, 11/20/09
“The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded a $200,000 grant to the Jazz Arts Group of Columbus to create a national model for building jazz and music audiences, entitled the Jazz Audiences Initiative. The 21-month project, which spans November 1, 2009-July 31, 2011, will enable the Jazz Arts Group to research and test new strategies for overcoming barriers to jazz participation and for building jazz audiences through more targeted marketing and programming efforts. The initiative will tackle fundamental questions about how and why people engage with jazz. Jazz artists and presenters nationwide will learn new ideas for building audiences and infusing the art form with new energy. In addition, research of this kind has not been conducted by another organization in the United States.”
Schools, schools, schools. You cut music education — like jazz, or especially jazz — and I don’t care how many studies you do. It starts when people are young. Not to recognize this, you might as well be blind or deaf or dumb or dead.

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Vermont: State Arts Council Holding Online Auction to Benefit Food Bank
Bennington Banner, 11/20/09
“Everyone has heard the saying ‘art feeds the soul,’ but people need to feed their bodies first. In response to the dire economics Vermonters are facing again this winter, the Vermont Arts Council has organized its second Doing Our pART online art auction to benefit the Vermont Foodbank. Bidding on more than 100 arts related items will take place November 27-December 4 at http://www.vermontartscouncil.org. Last fall, 80 artists and arts organizations stepped to the plate by donating goods and services to the first event. When the bidding closed, $10,254 in art had been sold and the Vermont Foodbank received 100 percent of the proceeds. The contribution equaled 15 tons of food, or approximately 27,000 meals for hungry Vermonters.”
Wow — you never think of these kinds of numbers when it comes to Vermont. Is this kind of thing scalable? Imagine if it was!