Arts Advocacy Update CXV: Largesse — Less or More?



The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Dec. 23, 2009. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Illinois: Museums Offers Hall of Gems Display for Marriage Proposals
The Chicago Tribune, 12/22/09
“Neelam Patel couldn’t believe it when she saw her boyfriend, Neal Patel, reach his hand into a case at the Field Museum and grab the diamond ring sitting inside. ‘I thought, “What is he doing? He’s breaking into this case at the Field Museum! He’s going to get arrested,”‘ she said. A second later Neal, 24, got down on one knee and asked Neelam, 25, to marry him. The case, identical to the others in the Grainger Hall of Gems and lit to hold a diamond ring, is part of a new offer by the museum to pop the question there. The $350 fee includes a champagne toast, with optional add-ons.”
That’s actually very sweet, although one could argue that it’s slightly homophobic — two men or two women wouldn’t exactly be afforded this opportnity, would they? Still, it’s Christmastime — perhaps the Field Museum might re-style itself as an equal opportunity marriage venue.

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Canada: Toronto’s Regent Park Revitalization Continues with New Arts Center, 12/18/09
“Toronto Community Housing Corporation, The Daniels Corporation, and Artscape announced that they will be working collaboratively with the local community on the development and operation of a vibrant new arts and cultural center in Regent Park. The announcement comes on the heels of the commitment made today…that the Governments of Canada and Ontario will invest up to $12 million each in the new Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre…Toronto Community Housing is leading the revitalization of Regent Park. It is a 10-year, $1.5 billion initiative that is transforming the community, creating better places to live, and attracting new community amenities like a new community center, world-class aquatic center, new central park, retail outlets, and now the arts and cultural center.”
Of course, we’re talking about two separate budgets here, but I wonder how the artists who were formerly being subsidized by the government (federal or provincial) feel about this.

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Colorado: State Supreme Court Bans Smoking on Stage
Associated Press, 12/16/09
“The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld a state ban on smoking by actors onstage, ruling that public health trumps actor’s freedom of expression. The court ruled 6-1 [on December 14] that a state indoor smoking ban applies to theaters. Observers called it the first decision by a state court upholding the extension of a smoking ban to theatrical performances. Of 24 states with indoor smoking bans, 12 have [total] exemptions or exemptions on a case-by-case basis for theatrical performances, according to the ruling. The court said performances typically convey their message ‘by imitation rather than by scientific demonstration’ and that there are alternatives to smoking on stage…Colorado’s law [also] bans using alternatives to tobacco cigarettes, such as cigarettes filled with cloves or tea leaves.”
Terrible decision — a bitch-slap in the face of the First Amendment. Don’t these idiots know there are cigarettes one can smoke on stage that won’t harm anyone? Apparently not: the banning on clove and tea leaf cigs is just absurd. Shame on them.

Federal Legislation Offers $23 Billion for Education Jobs Fund
Education Week, 12/17/09
“Cash-strapped school districts hoping to avert layoffs could get a boost from legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives December 16 that is intended to provide a jolt to the sluggish economy, in part by creating a $23 billion education jobs fund. Districts and states could use the money to restore cuts to K-12 and higher education to cover the cost of compensation and benefits for teachers and other employees. The funds could also be used for services related to school modernization, renovation, and repair. The money-which would be in addition to the infusion of up to $100 billion in education aid provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-would come from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was intended to help stabilize the banking industry. The $154 billion measure, which redirects $75 billion in TARP funds to job creation, was approved on a vote of 217-212, with 38 Democrats joining all Republicans in opposing the legislation. The U.S. Senate may take up its own version of a jobs bill next month.”
So, 38 Democrats joined all the Republicans are preferring to keep young people uneducated? Isn’t it charming? In the GOPs case, we at least expect a worship of stupidity.

Florida: House Democrats Propose Comprehensive Student Assessment Reform
Tampa Bay Newspapers, 12/16/09
“With a focus on children instead of high-stakes tests, Florida House Democrats are proposing bold initiatives to increase public school accountability and prepare every student to compete in the global economy. House Bill 473 by Rep. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) calls for comprehensive end-of-course exams in a wide variety of subjects to replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) as the nearly exclusive tool to determine student and school performance. The bill expands the way school accountability is determined by focusing on the entirety of students’ work throughout the year in addition to their end-of-course exam scores…In most grades, accountability is currently entirely based on the FCAT, a standardized test that offers only a snapshot of students’ performance. The FCAT covers core-curriculum subjects such as reading, math, and, to a lesser extent, science, and writing, but ignores important subjects such as civics, geography, world history, humanities, and the arts.”
Smart idea. New York State still has those mind-numbing Regents exams. Passing should be a matter of cumulative and sustained work and demonstrated achievement, not teaching to a test. Watch the Florida GOP go against it.

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Michigan: Ann Arbor City Council Reverses Stance on Public Art Funding Cut, 12/21/09
“Ann Arbor City Council members sided in favor of public art on two proposals before them [on December 21]: the city’s percent for art program and a water-based sculpture slated to go outside the new municipal center downtown. After voting to preserve the percent for art program, the council turned to the first project to result from the public art fund. A proposal had called for reducing that fund from one percent to a half-percent for three years. ‘Thank you for reaffirming art as a core value of our community,’ Margaret Parker, chairwoman of the city’s Public Art Commission, told council members. Council members voiced strong opinions that public art is not only one of Ann Arbor’s trademarks, but is also a driver of economic development.”
Good for them! Glad they see art as a fiscal driver — that’s important and probably a progressive idea in embryo.

Iowa: Economic Development Agency Temporarily Ends State Film Tax Credit
The Des Moines Register, 12/17/09
“Iowa economic development leaders agreed today to stop providing state tax credits for new film projects in Iowa for the remainder of the fiscal year. The temporary moratorium will have no affect on more than 100 film projects that have received an initial state green light, said Kay Snyder, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Economic Development. The state fiscal year ends June 30. Filmmakers who received an initial letter of approval or contract from the state have been asked to notify the agency about their plans to film in Iowa by December 21, Snyder said. No other films will receive tax credits for the remainder of the fiscal year.”
And this accomplishes what, exactly? Does it restore Iowa to blooming fiscal health? Despite all evidence to the contrary, the tough economic times are forcing state leaders to make unwise short-term decisions that contravene long-term interests. They, too, should be ashamed.

New York: Actor Creates $1 Million Tisch School Scholarship Fund, 12/21/09
“His character on NBC’s 30 Rock is a corporate-savvy, excessive spender, but in real life Alec Baldwin makes more selfless investments. The acclaimed actor recently donated $1 million to his alma mater, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Baldwin believes Tisch gave him the tools needed to achieve his success, and he hopes his support will make it possible for more students to benefit from what the leading arts institution has to offer. ‘It’s important to give back to the institutions that give us such opportunities, and I encourage anyone to look into supporting their alma mater,’ he said. The grant will establish the Alec Baldwin Drama Scholarship Fund, providing financial assistance to students who demonstrate unrelenting work ethic and the capacity to work with constructive criticism. Baldwin says these were characteristics he developed at Tisch, and he has found they are requirements in the ‘achievement of one’s goals in the performing arts.'”
I love the key part of that — constructive criticism. Tisch can be rough — and very unfair. Here’s to the university getting its act together in the name of students, not academic self-glorification. (As an alum of NYU, I reserve the right to pass judgment.)

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Pennsylvania: BNY Mellon Providing $100,000 to Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, 12/16/09
“BNY Mellon has approved more than $900,000 in fourth-quarter 2009 grants benefiting several Pittsburgh-area nonprofit organizations. This year, nearly $2.9 million in grants were awarded to about 50 regional nonprofits through the BNY Mellon Charitable Foundation. Through a combination of these grants, along with sponsorships and company support for employees’ volunteer and fundraising efforts, the company contributed approximately $4.8 million throughout the region this year.” Among the current grant recipients is the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, who will receive $100,000 to “manage The BNY Mellon Audience Development Fund, which provides grants to eligible local not-for-profit arts and cultural organizations with budgets under $2 million; scholarships to the National Arts Marketing Project Conference (the Americans for the Arts’ pre-eminent arts marketing professional development experience); and professional development/consulting services through the Business Volunteers for the Arts program.”
Pittsburgh is where it’s at, folks — one of the most progressive and burgeoning arts communities in the country. Bravo!!

Massachusetts: Theater Companies Cut, Innovate to Survive Recession
The Boston Globe, 12/18/09
“This year, local theater companies found creative ways to shore up their bottom lines as theatergoers thought longer and harder about where to spend their money. ‘People who I know who work in nonprofit arts…are some of the best entrepreneurs I’ve ever met, because we’ve been pulling it off for some time with no resources,’ says Kate Warner, artistic director at New Repertory Theatre in Watertown. Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell moved to cut budgets this year, despite four straight seasons in the black. Richard Gray, the technical director, agreed to a plan to close the scene shop, eliminate his job and two seasonal jobs, and outsource their sets…The Charlestown Working Theater partnered with the Artists Group of Charlestown, which has a studio and gallery just down the street from the theater, to offer a gallery show and reception followed by a play and a post-play reception at the theater, all for one ticket price.”
Great piece — and a warning shot to communities, including New York’s, who really haven’t fully grappled with the fiscal sea change that has washed over the nonprofit arts in America. Boston, which in my view has long suffered from something of an inferior complex, is much more vibrant than anyone thinks — including many Bostonians. Let this piece serve not as a dollop of negativity, but rather inspiration.

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Americans for the Arts Seeks Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study Participants
Are you interested in participating in Americans for the Arts’ fourth national economic impact study of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences-Arts & Economic Prosperity IV? In 2007, Arts & Economic Prosperity III found America’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year and generates 5.7 million jobs. It’s this data that has helped advocacy efforts nationwide by demonstrating that the arts mean business. Americans for the Arts is seeking at least 200 communities representing all 50 states for the next study, which will commence in 2010. Through the results, your community’s elected officials and business leaders will recognize the direct, tangible impact that the arts and culture have on your local economy. Be sure to include a portion of the affordable participation fee in your 2010 budget! Professional members of Americans for the Arts receive a discount. For more information on Arts & Economic Prosperity studies, contact Senior Director of Research Services Ben Davidson at