Arts Advocacy Update CXVIII: Playing with Dali, California Folly

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Jan. 20, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Georgia: Dancers Flock to Atlanta, Create ‘Colorful Urban Tapestry’
Dance Magazine, January 2010

“It’s a leap of faith-starting a dance career anywhere, that is. But it’s a common occurrence in Atlanta, where skyscrapers poke up out of the lush forest canopy, and highways carve through foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The country’s second-fastest growing metropolis, this southern city is home base for an increasing number of dancers and choreographers. And they’re building a rich, diverse dance environment on the foundation of strong traditions. From classical ballet to the avant-garde, from jazz to hip hop, from swing to world dance forms, creative artists are weaving a colorful urban tapestry. Supportive networks have developed, united by a shared passion for dance and a desire to build, collaborate, and create…Less saturated and less competitive than New York, it is a place where choreographers can take risks, define their identities, and build audiences.”
The key part of this is building audiences — and what is there in the Atlanta character or mentality that lends itself to supporting new dance? This is as much a sociological question as it is a cultural one, but it’s one that we should study, no?

Italy: Police Art Squad Recovered Nearly 60,000 Stolen Art Pieces, Relics Last Year
ArtDaily.org, 1/15/10

“Ancient frescoes, statues, and decorated vases that graced tables more than 2,000 years ago were among tens of thousands of artifacts recovered last year by Italy’s art police, officials said. Authorities said they recovered or seized nearly 60,000 pieces of looted or stolen artwork and archaeological artifacts worth ‚Ǩ165 million ($239 million) in 2009. That compares with the ‚Ǩ183 million in art and artifacts recovered in 2008, the Carabinieri art squad said in its annual accounting of the government’s efforts to recover looted antiquities and stolen artwork. Police figures show the number of illegal archaeological excavations discovered in 2009 decreased dramatically, from 238 in 2008 to just 58 in 2009. But at the same time, the number of people charged with falsifying artwork rose more than 400 percent.”
Those are extraordinary numbers, which is why we’ve included them here. What contemporaneous numbers were there in the U.S. last year? Anyone know?

President Obama Seeks to Expand ‘Race to the Top’ Program by $1.3 Billion
Stateline.org, 1/19/10

“As states rushed to meet the January 19 initial deadline to apply for their share of $4.35 billion in federal education money-known as Race to the Top funds-President Obama is seeking to expand the program by $1.35 billion. The initiative, which entices states to enact far-reaching education reforms to qualify for part of the federal money, began as part of the $787 billion stimulus plan. But the proposed expansion “marks an early example of the administration moving to transform a one-time stimulus program into a more permanent part of an agency’s budget,” The Wall Street Journal reported. The new funds, which will be included in an otherwise ‘barebones’ federal budget proposal, would come in the form of competitive grants given directly to winning school districts. That would differ from the first two rounds of Race to the Top, in which money will be given directly to state governments.”
To what degree would (or do) arts-education funds fit into this schematic? Also, the phrase from the article, “marks an early example of the administration moving to transform a one-time stimulus program into a more permanent part of an agency’s budget” is full of other implications, such as with regard to the National Endowment for the Arts. No?

Connecticut: Lacking Dollars, City Council Offers In-Kind Help to Local Arts Agency
TheDay.com, 1/12/10

“Acknowledging that there won’t be money in the [Norwich] city budget for arts organizations for the second straight year, one alderman is suggesting that the city find other ways to support the arts. William Nash has placed a resolution on the most recent council agenda asking that City Manager Alan Bergren ‘explore any and all means to lend support from the city for the arts community beyond the scope of the local budgetary process.’ Norwich had provided regular direct funding to the Norwich Arts Council, Spirit of Broadway Theater, and cultural programs such as Taste of Italy and the July 4 fireworks festival until last year’s budget. Nash said Monday the city still cares but cannot allocate tax money for the organizations in the coming budget. Bergren said the city may be able to help with in-kind services such as help in grant writing and letters of support for grant applications. ‘The statement is to let the arts community know that they are valued and an integral part of the community,’ Bergren said.”
Of course the real questions will be valued to what degree. We’ll wait and see, obviously.

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Florida: Dali Museum Seeks $5 Million in Hotel Tax Funding for New Building
St. Petersburg Times, 1/13/10

“[On January 13], Salvador Dali Museum leaders made their best pitch for $5 million in hotel tax money to complete a new building under construction on the St. Petersburg waterfront. They left empty-handed, at least for now. Members of the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council named a subcommittee to look into how the grant might result in cuts to other activities funded by the tax. Several voiced concerns about reducing advertising that promotes Pinellas to potential visitors in big feeder markets…The new $36 million museum under construction near the Mahaffey Theater is scheduled to open in January 2011. All but $6 million has been raised from federal, state, city, and private funding. But money for the project will run out this spring without a new source of funds.”
Hard to see what the alternatives are — an empty, hulking museum? Another reason why the same old business model is, indeed, same-old, same-old.

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Tennessee: Cultural Leaders Propose New City/County Arts Funding Mechanism
MetroPulse.com, 1/13/10

“In response to last year’s funding crisis, Liza Zenni, executive director of the Arts and Culture Alliance, is working with Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam on a plan that would dedicate one cent of every $100 of property-tax revenue in the city and county toward the arts. No organization or individual artist would be guaranteed any money from year to year-they’d have to apply for any grants from the city and county. But the plan would establish a large source of money that would be available every year…As far as local arts initiatives go, it’s small compared to some other cities. And, as Zenni points out, it’s not new spending or a tax increase. But it’s an ambitious plan around here, the first of its kind in Knoxville to essentially guarantee local arts-and-culture funding from one year to the next. Those guarantees, Zenni says, are essential not only to keep arts groups afloat financially but also to give them some measure of creative freedom.”
Watch this go down. The people are no mood to reallocate preexisting taxes. The people are in the mood, if one penny per hundred dollars is to go somewhere, for it to go back to them. Which is why the people are, pardon the expression, idiots.

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California: Los Angeles Film Production Drops 19 Percent in 2009
Los Angeles Times, 1/15/10

“Movie and TV filming on the streets of Los Angeles plummeted last year, but a new state tax credit program helped stop some runaway production. FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles city film permits, says on-location filming days declined 19 percent in 2009 from the previous year-the largest year-to-year decline since they were first tracked in 1993. Feature film production alone dropped 30 percent. The decline was blamed on the recession, lingering effects of an actors contract dispute, and a continuing exodus of production to cheaper locales. Last year, California began a tax incentive program to keep filming in the state. Some 50 productions qualified for about $100 million [in tax incentives]. FilmL.A. says the program helped keep 10 feature films in town.”
The key phrase here: “continuing exodus.” Even with the movement toward tax incentives being scaled back or abandoned or otherwise attacked in various parts of the country, it’s still cheaper to film outside of the California a fair amount of the time. The state has no luck.

United Kingdom: Private Arts Investment Expected to Remain Low Until 2012
ARTINFO.com, 1/13/10

“The global economy may be on the mend, but investment in the arts isn’t likely to bounce back so quickly, Colin Tweedy, the chief executive of U.K. charity Arts & Business, states in a company report. In Tweedy’s estimation, it could be two years before arts groups begin to see an increase in revenue. According to Arts & Business, U.K.-based companies cut back their investment in the arts by six percent in the year ending March 31, 2009. Businesses, individual philanthropists, and nonprofit institutions also cut back, around seven percent. Museums suffered the largest drop in donations during the reported period, declining a staggering 37 percent to ¬£80.8 million ($131 million). While nonprofit arts groups have long relied on the government to meet shortfalls in private donations, the report suggests that they want to begin looking elsewhere. After national elections scheduled for June of this year, the winning government is not likely to increase arts spending as it will need to continue to contend with a weakened tax base.”
So, what does “elsewhere” mean? Or maybe the question is to whom “elsewhere” refers? More proof that we’d better rethink the whole arts business model, which the arts won’t.

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