Arts Advocacy Update CXXV: That Old-Time Religion



The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of March 17, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Pennsylvania: University Refurbishes Historic Church as Performing Arts Center
Philadelphia Business Journal, 3/12/2010

“Temple University will open a historic church as a new performing arts space next month, after a $30 million renovation. In its day, the Baptist Temple, which opened in the 1880s on North Broad Street, hosted the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller, and President Franklin Roosevelt. Prior to the renovation, the massive stone building had been dormant for 30 years, with a leaky roof and rotting floors. Today, the exterior looks much as it did in its heyday. But the inside has been transformed into a modern theater-suitable for concerts, plays, and live performances, but also for speeches, corporate meetings, and social functions. ‘It was not restored. It’s a renovation. It’s been re-tasked, blending the old with the new,’ said Charles Henry Bethea, executive director of the Baptist Temple. Temple will officially unveil the performing arts center on April 14. Its first performance will be Broadway singer and actress Patti LuPone on April 17.”
And it was a Baptist church, no less. I’m particularly gratified that certain aspects of the structure will remain either intact or restored or otherwise homaged, reflecting on the amazing history of the building. That’s the idea of “smart” reuse.

Ohio: New Music Technology Program Draws Students to the Arts, 3/15/10

“McKinley High School could become home to the music industry’s next great producer. That, or students will leave school with a greater appreciation for music, thanks to a new program. The program, music technology, has expanded from 50 students in the fall to 80 this semester. It is so new that there are no textbooks for it. Most of the instruction comes from online resources. In this course, students-freshmen to seniors-learn how to make music without an instrument. Teacher Brian Laakso said music technology engages today’s students to create, share, and appreciate music made via technology. And it’s relevant…Today’s youth have different outlets to make music, such as video games, or to showcase their talents on websites such as YouTube…So, his students have made music videos, their own cell phone ringtones, and they’ve used drum-beat machines.”
The most inspiring and depressing aspect of this piece is actually in the comments section. If those aren’t representative of the totally polarized world we live in, the corroded politics we are suffering through, nothing is. Wow. People are really angry. And brilliant. And stupid.

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United Kingdom: Acting Technique Used to Help Students Learn Shakespeare
The Guardian, 3/10/10

“Eleven-year-olds are to learn Shakespeare using techniques employed by Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) actors, and English teachers will be encouraged to let pupils walk around the classroom rather than reading the plays while sitting at their desks. Exercises devised by the RSC and the Globe Theatre in London will see children aged 11-14 mirror the methods of professional actors at rehearsal. Written and oral assessments developed alongside the lessons will show how well students have understood the texts. Following the government’s announcement of the new teaching initiative, the RSC’s director of education, Jacqui O’Hanlon, said focusing on how actors came to understand the playwright’s language had been a vital inspiration. She said: ‘Actors have the same nervousness around Shakespeare’s language as young people in schools do. We looked at how they get from that to a place of utter conviction, confidence and eloquence in six to eight weeks.'”
Reading more about the techniques is probably a must if this kind of story intrigues you. It comes right up to the edge, in my opinion, of educational theater, which is really an underutilized resource in terms of arts education.

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Massachusetts: Legislative Committee Rejects Cuts to Film Tax Break
The Boston Globe, 3/12/10

“A key legislative committee has unanimously rejected a bill that would have drastically cut the state’s tax credit for the film industry. The Revenue Committee voted 8-0 to reject a bill introduced by state Rep. Steven D’Amico (D-Seekonk) that would have cut the credit to a maximum of $7 million per movie. Gov. Deval Patrick proposal to cut the tax credit to $50 million per year for the next two years was not acted on. Supporters of the incentive say it has brought some Hollywood glitz to Massachusetts, created thousands of jobs and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in spending. D’Amico and other supporters of the measure says the state shouldn’t be offering big tax giveaways while education, and other important programs are being trimmed.”
Dear State Sen. D’Amico: get educated. What you call “giveaways” is amazing economic stimulus. Stop trying to destroy the Massachusetts economy.

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New York: State’s Film Production is Second in Nation
Crain’s New York Business, 3/16/10

“New York’s film and television production industry employed around 63,000 workers and paid as much as $5 billion in wages in 2008, making it the second-largest film industry in the nation after California, according to a report released by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli…The report comes as the state is deciding whether to extend its highly successful tax credit on production. In the 2010 budget proposal released by Gov. David Paterson, he expands the film tax credit to $420 million a year from $350 million and extends the program through 2014. Though the budget is now under negotiation, film executives are confident that the tax rebate program will pass, though it may be tweaked a little. Since the tax incentive program was started in 2004, the credit has generated an estimated $6.98 billion in economic activity in New York, according to the report. More than two-thirds of the film and TV production in the state was located in New York City.”
One of my closest friends made more money last year working on films in New York than ever, so these are real numbers — and real jobs. No one in the Empire State is silly enough to tinker with that.

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Nevada: Despite Economy, Las Vegas Arts Community Remains Hopeful
Las Vegas Sun, 3/11/2010

“On paper, the arts are looking grim. In less than two years the city lost the Las Vegas Art Museum and two critical downtown galleries, Naomi Arin Contemporary Art and Michele C. Quinn Fine Art Advisory. The Las Vegas Philharmonic nearly collapsed, Nevada Ballet Theatre restructured for financial reasons, and museums and cultural centers cut hours and programming…Then there are officials with the city of Las Vegas, sharpening their budget cleavers to curtail a $400 million deficit, knowing that nearly 40 percent of participants in a 2009 survey said the city should place less emphasis on cultural opportunities…But some are responding with determination and tenacity. Groups are talking about creative partnerships. Others are buckling down and staying focused. ‘You can’t just jump ship,’ says Jeanne Voltura, gallery coordinator for the city. ‘The arts are always under tight scrutiny, so this is nothing new. People are looking at creative options,’ Voltura said.”
Certainly I hope there is a turnaround in Las Vegas, but how can all of this not be tied to home prices? The market there is junk and it permeates every other sector. A real shame.

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North Carolina: Charlotte Arts Groups Continue to Fight for Survival
Charlotte Business Journal Queen City Agenda Blog, 3/11/2010

“Even as uptown Charlotte’s $127 million cultural campus comes to life, arts leaders characterize the climate as a mixture of caution and optimism. Most notable on the caution side: A decision this week to extend the deadline for the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) annual six-week fund drive for the first time in the organization’s 52-year history. Now the campaign will end on March 29 instead of March 22, as originally planned. ASC generates 60 percent of its annual budget from the campaign. As of March 10, the arts group had raised $6.3 million, $1 million short of the goal…How the ASC fares impacts the rest of the cultural sector; most organizations rely on ASC grants for part of their operating budgets. The toll of the recent financial hardship is clear at ASC and beyond. A recent ASC survey of 23 large local arts organizations found that layoffs since January 2009 have reduced the number of full-time workers by 9 percent, including 11 positions at ASC. Arts organizations also have reduced salaries 5-10 percent, ushered in unpaid furloughs averaging two weeks, and eliminated 401(k) employer matching-payment programs.”
For me, the salient part of the story is actually further down:

Corporate and employee donations, which account for almost all of the money raised, remain tepid in many sectors. ASC President Scott Provancher said earlier this year the campaign will have to be restructured in the near future to generate contributions from a wider audience.