Arts Advocacy Update CXXVI: The Reality of the Arts

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of March 24, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.)

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National Endowment for the Arts Unveils Informal Arts Participation Findings
ArtDaily.org, 3/23/2010

“Any serious reckoning of how Americans participate in arts and cultural activities must account for demographic and geographic diversity. Prior National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) publications, including the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, already have examined the age, race/ethnicity, gender, education, and income status of arts-goers. Another way to understand arts participation is by asking where it takes place. Come as You Are: Informal Arts Participation in Urban and Rural Communities is the NEA’s first research publication in several years to examine the informal arts-such as playing a musical instrument, attending an art event at a place of worship, or visiting a craft fair. This finding is part of new research from the NEA, announced during a visit by NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman to Chelsea, MI, as part of the NEA’s Art Works Tour. The publication provides an analysis of arts participation in rural and urban areas.”
A very important piece of this is the following:

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Traditional arts venues and institutions such as art museums, galleries, and performing arts centers and companies cluster in urban populations. Eighty-eight percent of nonprofit performing art organizations and art museums are located in urban metropolitan areas, with the top 10 metro areas home to 30 percent of the nonprofit arts institutions. As a result, a third of all urban metro dwellers attended at least one of the main performing arts events tracked by the SPPA (classical music, jazz, or Latin/salsa music performances; opera; musical or non-musical plays; or ballet or other dance). Similarly, 24 percent of urban dwellers visited an art museum or gallery in 2008.

Illinois: Joffrey Ballet in Spotlight for New Reality Show
Chicago Sun-Times, 3/18/2010
“A major reality show is gearing up to be shot right here. Chicago’s internationally renowned Joffrey Ballet will be the focus of an unscripted TV series, tentatively titled First Position. The Joffrey’s executive director, Christopher Clinton Conway, explained ‘this all came up while we were out in Los Angeles with Cinderella, for the recent West Coast performances of the ballet created by Sir Frederic Ashton.’ An initial contact by a Joffrey board member led to the Joffrey joining forces with Los Angeles-based W/O Productions, which developed the idea for the show. According to Conway, the series will zero in on the Joffrey’s trainee program, reportedly the largest such operation run by an American ballet troupe. It will be similar in feel to something like Project Runway, and focus on our trainees, who are between 17-22 years of age,’ Conway said. ‘They are not quite yet in the company, but have been dancing pretty much their whole lives.’ There will be weekly challenges, and ‘part of the package will be to offer a contract [with the Joffrey] to the winner at the end.'”
Sigh. I mean, can they fundraise off of the exposure they would get?

Georgia: 800 Music Students Gather to Play in Protest of $4 Million Budget Cut
11Alive.com, 3/22/10
“It would be extraordinary on any day-more than 800 student musicians performing together under one roof on March 22. For many of the orchestra students and families who gathered in Alpharetta, it was something they may not see or hear again for a long time. But they’re not going down without a fight. Fulton County School Board members voted to cut the $4 million a year elementary school band and orchestra programs because of the projected $120 million shortfall in next school year’s system-wide budget. That cut directly impacts 8,000 students, including the more than 300 fourth and fifth graders performing with older students on March 22…Parents have just hired a consultant, John Benham of St. Paul, MN, who has a track record of saving music from school budget cuts across the country. They hope they’ll be able to show the board alternatives to the budget cuts; they hope to show there is enough money in the tight budget for the programs.”
Another salient graph in this story raises the question: So the teachers are to blame? Really?
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Fulton County School Board members, along with Superintendent Cindy Loe, have said repeatedly at budget meetings over the past several weeks that they did not want to cut the programs, but couldn’t figure out any other way as they eliminate personnel and programs to balance the budget. Dr. Loe has pointed out that elementary school principals unanimously preferred cutting the 59 orchestra and band teachers if it meant fewer cuts to other teachers and staff.

Pennsylvania: Study Reveals State’s Film, TV Production as Key Job Generator
PRWeb.com, 3/23/10
“The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (TRWIB) released results of a new workforce study that shows the strength and impact of the motion picture and television industry in Pennsylvania and the importance of the film production tax credit, creating high paying jobs, and current job gains. Tax credits go to films that spend 60 percent of production costs in Pennsylvania. ‘This study shows the strength of the motion picture and television industry in Pennsylvania and its ability to create high paying jobs, even in difficult times,’ said Stefani Pashman, CEO of TRWIB. ‘This data reinforces the need to retain the film production tax credit, a tax incentive that has given our state a distinct competitive advantage. In 2008 alone, the motion picture and television industry employed over 15,000 workers with wages that average $85,500 in Philadelphia and $67,200 in Pittsburgh. At a time when jobs are being lost, we cannot afford to let go of this tax credit and damage a growing industry cluster. Without the film industry tax credit, Pennsylvania will lose high paying jobs, and the opportunity to bring high profile projects to Pennsylvania.”
This is vital — more proof of the economic-impact argument being absolutely indispensable. Indeed, this is the argument especially in tough times.

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Georgia: Public Art Makes One of ‘Ten Best Places to Live’ Even Better
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/20/10
“Just two years ago, not long before the world’s economy plunged off a cliff, Suwanee approved an ambitious new ordinance to fund public art. But with new construction everywhere at a standstill, the Gwinnett County city of 16,000 residents couldn’t really test drive its plan to ask developers to voluntarily commit one percent of their total project costs to art installations. So Suwanee put itself to the test instead. Leaders of the town once best known as home to the Atlanta Falcons’ training camp set aside $78,000 in the budget for its new City Hall to commission a dramatic suspended sculpture as its centerpiece. When Shimmering Echoes by Seattle artist Koryn Rolstad is formally dedicated, it will represent the first tangible evidence of the city’s one percent for public art policy in action. It will also underscore Suwanee’s eager embrace of sidewalk statues, murals, and other accessible forms of art at a time of flatlining finances and voter disenchantment around the country. Where many struggling cities see public art as an extravagance these days, Suwanee, on firmer ground financially, sees it as a key to a prosperous future.”
I’m a committed fan of one-percent-for-art arrangements, but there is something I’ve never understood: why is it just always (or typically) just one artist? In other words, instead of setting aside $78,000 for one artist — and who knows how long that art will last, or should be hung or would command any attention — wouldn’t it be equally advantageous to divvy that up into two commissions or three?

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Taxpayers Groups Question U.S. State Department Cultural Spending
The Washington Times, 3/18/10
“The U.S. State Department is poised to spend nearly a half-million dollars on a pair of upcoming art and architecture exhibitions in Italy, an expense that fiscal watchdogs criticize with the nation’s budget picture stuck in the red. Plans call for the State Department to spend $350,000 so that artists can showcase their works at the 54th edition of the Venice Biennale next year, an international event that’s been dubbed the Olympics of modern art. Department officials plan to spend an additional $100,000 so U.S.-based curators at nonprofit museums, galleries, and arts and architecture schools can travel and display their works at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, scheduled for later this year. State Department officials call the money well-spent. They say the exhibitions provide a way to showcase American creativity and innovation to the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to view the exhibits from all over the world…But taxpayer watchdogs say the expenditures are emblematic of how federal agencies have strayed too far from their core missions at a time when the country is trillions of dollars in debt.”
There remains absolutely no accounting for the stupidity of so-called “fiscal watchdogs.” In a $1,000,000,000,000 deficit, $450,000 comprises .00000045% of 1%. But hey, let’s spend hundreds of billions on the military — more than all other nations on earth combined. That’s all right. No waste there.

Texas: Touring Broadway Shows Support Dallas Economy
The Dallas Morning News, 3/21/10
“Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about the economic effect of major sporting events such as the recently played NBA All-Star Game and upcoming Super Bowl in Arlington. But what about the monetary oomph provided by a hit Broadway show? ‘I think people would be surprised to know that we have 289 subscribers who live outside of Texas and another 512 subscribers who live in Texas but more than 100 miles from Dallas,’ says Michael Jenkins, president and managing director of the Dallas Summer Musicals. Three doctors in Albuquerque, NM, come with their families to a Saturday night performance of every show, Jenkins says. ‘You can mark your calendar by them.’ That said, out-of-towners account for fewer than five percent of the 19,000 season subscriptions. But based on his nonscientific nightly chats, Jenkins figures that folks from elsewhere buy between a quarter and a third of the individual tickets sold for blockbuster shows.”
I’m so pleased that this graph was included, because it crystallizes in easily digestible terms what everyday people need to know:

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Phantom just completed a monthlong run at the Music Hall. Dallas Summer Musicals sold $5.3 million in tickets. Add in $500,000 for food, beverage and souvenirs, and that’s nearly $6 million in pure revenue before you apply any multiplier.