Arts Advocacy Update CXXXIII: Oregon Kids Fight for In-School Culture


The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of June 2, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.)

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North Carolina: Several Problems Prompt Art Museum Shutdown
The Fayetteville Observer, 5/30/10
“Stanley Greaves rolled up his artwork and boxed it away [May 27], leaving behind a bare gallery. The 74-year-old artist from South America was supposed to have his work displayed inside the Fayetteville Museum of Art until July, but the museum’s abrupt closure cut his exhibit short. After 38 years, the art museum closed May 23. Starved of revenue and almost $500,000 in debt, museum trustees say they simply cannot afford to staff the building any longer. The sudden closure leaves Fayetteville, with about 207,000 residents, as the only major city in North Carolina without an art museum, although smaller art galleries are open elsewhere in the city. An unsuccessful fundraising campaign, along with politics, shaky museum finances, and the recession ultimately led to the board’s May 19 announcement to close and dismiss the staff.”
The sheer length of this story is very impressive. It is a testimonial to why local reporting is so key when it comes to the arts — being able to encapsulate why something as seemingly removed from everyday life as a museum is, in fact, inextricably intertwined with everyday life. My default would be to ask what the economic impact of this museum’s closure would be. In truth, a more important story (and this writer could tell it) would be about the impact of this museum’s closure on a whole city.

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Massachusetts: Instead of Selling Inventory, University Proposes Loaning Works
The Boston Globe, 5/28/10
“Brandeis University, which stirred controversy last year by proposing to close its Rose Art Museum, now plans to hire Sotheby’s auction house as a broker to raise money by loaning out artworks, the school confirmed [May 27]. Such loans from the Rose’s prized collection, if they take place, would help Brandeis avoid selling the works outright. Founded in 1961, the Rose boasts a collection of 7,500 objects valued by some at more than $350 million, including works by such giants as Matisse, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. In January 2009, Brandeis proposed to close the museum and sell its artworks to help re solve a budget crisis.”
Is there such a thing in the museum world as an endowment/budget/collection value ratio? A collection valued at $350 million should be loanable for revenue, certainly, but is that, in fact, too valuable for an institution without the fiscal means to support it? (I’m thinking of this in light of this article discussing the fact that the value of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art may be between $300 and $400 billion.)

Oregon: Student Advocates Fight to Restore Band, Choir, Theater Programs
Molalla Pioneer, 5/23/10
“Students and parents are rallying support to keep the performing arts in their schools after a recent Molalla River School District decision to remove the middle school band and choir programs and reduce the high school drama program next year…Sarah Andrews, a Molalla High School senior who participates in both choir and drama, has collected more than 200 signatures on a petition and said other students have also been collecting signatures in support of the middle and high school performing arts programs. Andrews, who plans to become an art and theater teacher, said the performing arts sharpen math and literary skills and promote abstract thought and social awareness, while giving students an extracurricular outlet besides athletics. ‘For the students that aren’t very good in sports, they give them something they can be confident in. Sports just weren’t meant for me,’ Andrews said. ‘The school board says that they’re trying to do everything with the best interest of the students, but this is not in the best interest of the students.'”
If the details of this story aren’t out of Glee, what is? Interestingly, too, the article says that the school board chair and vice chair were unavailable for comment. Are they hiding?

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Texas: Petition to Force Referendum on Arts Hall Funding Ruled Invalid
The Dallas Morning News, 6/2/10
“A petition submitted by the Frisco Tea Party to send the issue of funding for the Collin County arts hall back to voters was deemed invalid [June 1]. Frisco City Attorney Richard Abernathy told the city council and a crowded council chamber that he believed the petition did not meet the requirements of the city charter, which governs how the council must proceed. Based on that opinion, the council took no action. The petition had asked the council for a referendum to revoke authorization of the remaining $16.4 million in bonds for the Arts of Collin County project. But the city charter requires that referendums refer to ordinances or resolutions passed within the last 30 days. There was no recent action tied to the petition, Abernathy noted. Frisco voters originally approved the bonds for the 2,100-seat performance hall in 2002. The City Council voted a year later to move forward with Allen and Plano, each contributing $19 million to the project. McKinney voters rejected participating in the project. The remaining costs would be covered by private donations.”
No need to worry. The teabag idiots will be back, no doubt.

New Mexico: State Paid $181 Million in Film Tax Credits Over Last Three Years
New Mexico Independent, 5/31/10
“Steady activity of film and TV shoots is raising New Mexico’s profile in Hollywood as several films or TV series shot here have racked up Oscar and Emmy awards in recent years. But the bigger profile is also raising the amount of money New Mexico is paying out to film and TV productions through a controversial tax credit program. Over the past 33 months, 118 film and TV productions were paid $181 million through the program, including $60 million this fiscal year, state documents show. This year’s payout appears likely to eclipse the $61,464,418.56 New Mexico doled out last year…The film tax credit program is wearing a bigger bulls-eye these days as New Mexico’s lagging economy, and a strained state budget, add urgency to critics’ calls for an end to the program…’We’re cutting services, furloughing state employees. And we’re sending tens of millions of dollars to Hollywood. That ain’t right. It’s wrong,’ said first-term Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell).”
The Republican quoted here is very, shall we say, first term — he doesn’t talk, as the article does, about the nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in spending that production in New Mexico has brought to the economy. So there you have it: another prevaricating Republican.

Missouri: Tight Budget Forces State Arts Agency to Use Trust Funds for Grants
Southeast Missourian, 5/26/10

“A tight budget year created challenges for schools and governments, but the arts emerged from the legislative session with no state allocation. The Missouri Arts Council will depend on funds in its $17.5 million trust to grant money to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, school districts, civic organizations, theaters, and symphonies across the state that use the money for ongoing programs. ‘They knew we had money in the trust and it didn’t mean cutting jobs,’ said Beverly Strohmeyer, executive director of the council. The council’s board will meet next month and decide how far to dip into the limited funds in the trust, which was built up by the Non-Resident Professional Athletes and Entertainers Tax. Larger metropolitan organizations like the Kansas City Symphony and the St. Louis Art Museum received more than $200,000 in funding from the council during the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30.”
The cuts, either way, they are a-coming. The story says the arts council hasn’t gone without a direct appropriation since 2004. I would argue, sadly, that 2010-11 will be nothing compared to 2011-12.

Florida: Is the Economic Argument for the Arts the Best Pitch We Have?
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 5/30/10
“What’s the best way to sell the importance and value of the arts to politicians and other public officials at a time when they are slashing budgets because of declining tax revenues? Or anytime, really? In numerous interviews for an ongoing series of stories about the business of the arts, many arts leaders have emphasized the economic value of supporting and funding the arts. The Sarasota County Arts Council frequently notes that when you combine all arts organizations, they represent the fifth largest employer in the county. That’s a major economic factor. And countless studies have shown that every dollar spent on arts events leads to many more being spent on food, parking, dining, and hotels. The arts are a good investment for any town or city, especially an area like Sarasota, where they help distinguish the region from every other beachfront community in Florida.”
The headline here is misleading and the author of the story, my colleague Jay
Handelman, should know better. The implication is that there’s something wrong or substandard about the fiscal-impact argument. Yet, right in his story, he cites “countless studies” that demonstrate that the fiscal-impact argument is a strong one. What really happened here is that Handelman is suggesting that because state lawmakers in Tallahassee failed to allocate very much money for the arts, the fiscal-impact line therefore must not be as strong as some other argument. I don’t really follow the causation here, but he then trots out Teresa Eyring, executive director (and dossier keeper) of Theatre Communications Group, who, in a speech in Sarasota, touts mushier lines of discussion: the arts can generate “new ideas”; the arts create “new ways of looking” at the world. Sounds warm, but what do those concepts mean? How do you translate those concepts into something not scary for the people on the radical right who, in fact, don’t embrace and don’t want “new ideas,” people for whom “new ways of looking” at the world is itself a cause for concern.
The bottom line is this: So long as the Florida legislature is a case study in the politically imbalanced — Republicans control 76 seats in the 120-seat House and 26 of the 40 seats in the Senate — the issue is not going to be which arts-funding argument is better. And if Handelman — or rather, Eyring — want to slather people with nostrums, fine. That doesn’t make the discussion crisp.

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Michigan: Foundation Gives Public Schools $2.1 Million for Art, Science Program
The Detroit News, 5/27/10
“About 200 Detroit Public Schools (DPS) preschool children will learn about art and science through a new program made possible by a $2.1 million donation from the PNC Foundation. The announcement by the PNC Foundation was made at Emerson Elementary School, one of seven DPS schools that will participate. A dozen teachers and 12 teaching assistants will also receive training under the program. ‘Establishing a foundation in basic skills during a child’s early years is vital to competing in an economy increasingly based on knowledge and ability,’ James E. Rohr, chairman and chief executive officer of the PNC Financial Services Group Inc, said in a statement. ‘The investment we make now in the children of Detroit lays the groundwork for their future and that of this region.’ The donation with the DPS Foundation, Detroit Science Center. and Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts will establish the first pilot program in the arts and sciences. The program will start in June and continue into the school year to help underserved pre-kindergarten students get a head start.”
What is this? A good news story! I can’t believe it! Seriously, this is awesome. Detroit needs it, too.

Arts Canvas: The View from the Field
Tim Mikulski, Arts Education Program Manager, Americans for the Arts
Two weeks ago, I joined approximately 40 other arts education leaders in a two-day meeting to discuss plans for National Expectations for Learning in Arts Education, a projected originally taken on by State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE).

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For the first time in 16 years, arts education experts from national organizations spent time evaluating the possible impact and creating a plan for potential revisions, additions, or replacement for National Arts Education Standards.

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Over the two days of discussion, I was struck by the passion in the room and energized by what will be coming in the next steps in the process.

Much has changed in the world since 1994. In fact, an entire generation of students has passed through the K-12 school system since that time and approaches to the challenges of access, equity, and quality arts education must change if not only because of time alone. However, we also cannot ignore the fact that other core subject areas are also realigning and revisioning their expectations. We simply can’t be-forgive the term-‘left behind.’ Thinking back to my own arts education experience, I realize that ironically most of it ended in 1994-the year I graduated eighth grade.

To read more of Tim’s post, respond, and read other arts bloggers, please visit the Americans for the Arts ARTSBlog, which hosted an Arts Education Blog Salon last week, featuring over a dozen arts education experts writing about their experiences in and with the field.
I recommend reading the rest of Mikulski’s post because he touches on something important: the importance of well integrating all aspects of an education, rather than separating subjects “into their own little nodes.” The question is to what degree our arts leaders — and teachers — have the will to imagine how this will work. Do they have the talent and the foresight? Absolutely.