Arts Advocacy Update CXIX: GA on My Mind; KY Behind

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Jan. 27, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Georgia: Five Art Museums Combine Efforts to Share Resources, Collections
CoosaValleyNews.com, 1/25/10
“The High Museum of Art, in collaboration with four Georgia museums, has established the Georgia Art Museum Partnership initiative, the first of its kind in the state that will allow for the sharing of resources and collections among museums in Georgia and the Southeast. The five partnering museums are the High Museum of Art (Atlanta), the Albany Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum, the Telfair Museum of Art (Savannah), and the Georgia Museum of Art (Athens)…The partnering museums will not only draw on each other’s resources for exhibitions and loans of individual objects, they will also participate in customized workshops.”
We’ve reported via the Arts Advocacy Update on this before, but glad to read that it’s moving forward. The question is: the resource sharing will amount to what? Will there be a price to pay, as it were, in terms of philanthropic support if costs are lessened? Or can these groups collectively stretch their philanthropic dollar?

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Wisconsin: Developer Makes Public Art a Priority in New Construction Project
Wisconsin State Journal, 1/22/10

“Developer Bob Blettner believes that the business parks he creates should evoke emotion and that the people who work there should be celebrated-through art. Not with just watercolors in an atrium or landscape prints in a conference room, but with big, bold, expressive sculptures. ‘I wanted to use art, these life-size sculptures, to celebrate positive emotions that people tend to have when they’re at certain physical spaces,’ said Blettner, chief executive officer of the Blettner Group, which designs and builds business parks in the Upper Midwest. Now he wants to put a 10-foot bronze sculpture of a man chiseling himself out of stone in a public place…at the entrance to Blettner’s Middleton Corporate Center business park.”
Is it symbolism or is it provocative — or is it both? It seems exceedingly rare for public art to be viewed as a priority, even though legislatively in many places across the nation there are 1% for art mandates and such. How do we use public art to teach the public about the value of public art

Ohio Alliance for Arts Education Launches Statewide Arts Education Analysis
PR Newswire, 1/25/10

“The Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (OAAE) announced today that it is launching a research effort to measure arts education in Ohio’s schools. OAAE, along with its partners the Ohio Arts Council and Ohio Department of Education, will distribute the Ohio Arts Education Survey to school principals statewide on March 15, 2010. The information collected through the surveys will build on prior studies carried out between 1989 and 2004 and will create a snapshot of the current status of arts education in Ohio’s schools. OAAE and its partners will provide parents, school leaders, policymakers, and community members with an analysis of arts education while at the same time providing schools and communities with tools and resources to strengthen student learning…The survey results will help the project partners and Ohio’s learning community understand the impact of Ohio’s arts education programs, the level of student involvement with the arts, and how to align resources to areas of need.”
Let us guess: arts education is down, resources are increasingly meager, we are on the edge of churning out uninteresting, unworldly, unsophisticated, unintelligent children who can’t read or write, much less appreciate art, unless they come out of homes where art is instilled or they come out of economically advantaged communities. Sorry to be cynical, but…

Jazz Improvisation Study Findings Support Arguments for Music Education
Miller-McCune.com, 1/22/10
“New brain scan research, reported in the new issue of the journal NeuroImage, finds a scientific explanation for that quasi-mystical phenomenon [of jazz improvisation]…Researchers Aaron Berkowitz and Daniel Ansari studied the brains of 28 people as they improvised five-note melodies on a tiny keyboard. Thirteen were classically trained undergraduate pianists from the Dartmouth College music department. The other 15 were nonmusicians. ‘The two groups showed significant differences in functional brain activity during improvisation,’ the researchers report. ‘Specifically, musicians deactivated the right temporoparietal junction during melodic improvisation, while nonmusicians showed no change in activity in this region.’ This suggests trained musicians ‘are entering a different state of attentional focus than nonmusicians as soon as they engage in even the simple act of playing, and that this effect is particularly heightened during melodic improvisation.’ In other words, they effectively blocked out mental distractions, ‘allowing for a more goal-directed performance state that aids in creative thought.’ That ability to intensely focus has a variety of obvious benefits. Indeed, this study could be used as further evidence of the value of maintaining music education in the schools.”
Great idea for a study. Have there been similar investigations into what art and exposure to art does to the young brain? Or, for that matter, the older brain? Seems to me those, too, could be arrows in the pro-arts quiver, at least among the intellgensia.

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Kentucky: State Arts Council Forced to Suspend Several Grant Programs
WFPL-FM, 1/26/10

“The Kentucky Arts Council has decided to temporarily suspend six grant programs because of the state’s budget crisis. The announcement comes after incremental cuts in the Arts Council’s budget over the year became an overall 24 percent reduction, which is almost $1 million. The grants include one that helped fund performing arts events and another that provided funds to individual Kentucky artists to further their work…Arts Council Executive Director Lori Meadows says the decision came after looking at dire predictions about the state budget. ‘Until we’re positive what our funding level for fiscal year 2011 is,’ she says, ‘it just seemed like the right thing to do, so that people wouldn’t go to the trouble of planning on or filling out an application.'”
Fair enough, but that money is probably not coming back. While I’m not privy to the specifics of the Kentucky state arts appropriations (though I could
conceivably locate it), I worry somewhat less for the powerhouse organizations like Actors Theatre of Louisville (though I’m sure they endure money woes) and more for the small er groups for which state-level funding is the difference between life and death.

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Across the Country, Mixed Feelings on Film Production Tax Credits
Variety, 1/25/10

“Film production tax credits partially refund state taxes to filmmakers, luring them to areas in need of economic growth. Some have gone badly wrong, while almost identical programs have sparked urban renewal and generated good, much-needed jobs. Now, the recession has pressured many of the 40 states that offer them to revisit their incentive programs as lawmakers cut corners. Few have moved to dissolve them, but several officials fought hard to have their states’ credits scaled down or eliminated last year. New York’s program, which many other states have used as a model, has been expanded under then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer and pushed even further by his successor, David Paterson. It has attracted new biz to the state and beefed up a sector of the economy to help regain some of the tax revenue that bankrupt bankers were no longer paying.
As we’ve suggested repeatedly, this is a battle, not a blip. The whole economic-impact argument
underpinning these incentives is under attack due to the economy. This is a great, well-reported story worth reading.

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South Carolina: Local Arts Group Temporarily Ends Major Grants Program
The Herald, 1/26/10

“Faced with a 35 percent drop in donations to its annual campaign and a reduction in earned income, the Arts Council of York County announced it would temporarily suspend its annual major grants program. The decision will impact three local organizations: The York County Ballet, the Rock Hill Community Theater, and the York County Choral Society. Grant payments for the remainder of the 2009-2010 fiscal year will be suspended, and no new applications will be accepted in the first half of 2010. The arts council’s budget has been stretched this year not only by the recession, but also its commitment to a new community performance center in downtown Rock Hill. The center, which opened last year in a renovated bank building, includes a theater and rehearsal space for the York County Ballet.”
More building of structure when what was needed was financial infrastructure?

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