Arts Advocacy Update 134: California Wants Jobs for Stupid People

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of June 9, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Maine: Veteran Bangor Arts Groups Form New Consortium
Bangor Daily News, 6/7/10
“A ballerina, a violinist, and a taxidermied Reeve’s Muntjac deer were at the Bangor Public Library to celebrate the formation of Bangor Arts, a consortium of eight long-standing Bangor arts organizations…Charter members of Bangor Arts include the Penobscot Theatre Company, the Bangor Museum and Center for History, the Bangor Public Library, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, River City Cinema, Robinson Ballet, the University of Maine Museum of Art, and the Maine Discovery Museum (MDM). The aforementioned deer is part of the MDM’s newest exhibition, ‘Safari,’ which displays 30 different animals from all over the world and runs until August 31. Bangor Arts will allow for greater collaboration between the eight organizations, and will create opportunities for cross promotion and cost sharing. The idea for Bangor Arts has been in the works for many years, but a grant from Maine Arts Commission in June 2009 was the catalyst for the official forming of the group. The City of Bangor’s Commission on Cultural Development collaborated with the group in securing additional funding.”
What’s so bright is that even in relatively modest communities, the advantages of cost and resource sharing can only lead to positive benefits all around. We scoff at the “rising tide lifts all boats” meme, but in the arts it means good business.

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Nebraska: Arts Center Brings the Arts to Community
Lincoln Journal Star, 6/6/10

“The Lux Center for the Arts unveiled its Art Van deLux, a cargo van equipped with a variety of art supplies including a mobile potter’s wheel, miniature printing press, tabletop easels, and drawing boards. Community donations and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts put the Lux Center slightly over its $50,000 goal to buy and retrofit the van, stock it with supplies, and hire traveling art instructors. The van will make its maiden voyage later this week when it offers free art club activities at Norwood Park, Clinton, and Hartley elementary schools as part of summer Community Learning Center programs at those sites. The National Endowment for the Arts grant will allow the Art Van deLux to serve low-income children and senior citizens at no charge, said Jo Ann Emerson, director of the Lux Center. The van is also scheduled to provide a workshop for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired as well as monthly art classes at The Landing senior living community this summer.”
Savvy of the NEA to support this. What would the Republicans — especially in conservative Nebraska — have them do? Leave the poor, students and seniors to live without art? Yep, probably. Keeps them nice and ignorant, the way they like it.

Michigan: City Tests ‘Cultural Entrepreneur’ Position as Funding Replacement
Lansing State Journal, 6/5/10

“City officials are thinking outside the box-or outside the budget, in this case-when it comes to fostering the arts. The arts and culture portion of the city’s budget has dropped almost 50 percent, or $154,567, during the past five years, according to city documents. That is pushing officials to be creative when trying to attract musicians and artists downtown. Instead of funding some music and art festivals with the city’s money, officials want to bring in people who can organize them on their own. These ‘cultural entrepreneurs,’ as they’ve been dubbed, would rent space in a city-owned area, such as a park, to set up an event. ‘If we want to continue to grow as a city of the arts, this is a great way to move forward,’ Assistant City Manager Marie McKenna said. ‘It’s a money thing and a quality of life thing.’ McKenna, who is working with others in the city to define the role of a cultural entrepreneur, said the idea is in the experimental stages.”
I totally support “cultural entrepreneurship,” but I’m not quite sure, on the basis of this article, that I fully understand how the term is being used. People are being encouraged to produce events (“rent space in a city-owned area, such as a park…”) and then not so much charge for entree to the event as attempt to recoup their investment with donations? What does the city get out of this — revenue? The parameters aren’t particularly clear and I think, before we jump on a capitalistic bandwagon, the final destination and direction of all the monies here should be outlined in detail.

Utah: Salt Lake City Arts Education Organization Fighting Off Cuts
Deseret News, 6/7/10
“With Mayor Ralph Becker and a majority of Salt Lake City Council members set to pull the plug on a popular city-funded kids’ arts program, a grassroots group of parents and education experts aren’t ready to give up the fight. The YouthCity Artways program has provided affordable music, dance, and visual arts classes to thousands of youth across the capital city since 1997. Facing an almost $19 million revenue gap this fiscal year, Becker proposed erasing about $360,000 in funding earmarked for Artways next year and using a portion of the savings to create new grant money for other nonprofit arts groups. Upon hearing about the proposed cut, however, hundreds of parents and some experts in local arts programming have risen up to advocate on behalf of saving the program. They’ve even crafted a proposal they say maintains Artways’ services, without adding any new dollars to the city’s beleaguered balance sheets.”
Utah wants a generation of culturally ignorant, befuddled children? That’s what they’ll get if these cuts go through — or if a competing strategy that can deliver the same services isn’t convincingly outlined.

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Ohio: Supporting Arts Education is Essential
Zanesville Times Recorder, 6/6/10
Donna Collins, executive director of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, wrote the following in a guest column on the importance of arts education in tough economic times: “Education in the arts prepares students for careers. Americans for the Arts reported in 2009 that nationally there are 612,095 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 2.98 million people-4.3 percent of all businesses and 2.2 percent of all employees. The arts mean careers and business. The arts are recognized as a core subject, which places arts education at the same level of importance as language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and foreign languages. The arts are part of the core. Arts education programs are an instructional opportunity to improve student achievement. The Ohio Revised Code and Operating Standards for Ohio’s Schools require a curriculum that includes fine arts, including music and graduation requirements that include the arts. The arts help close the achievement gap.”
My question is why this has to be articulated over and over — do elected officials not listen? What is it about the arts that is so ingrained in the negative among certain kinds of public officials that these arguments have to be made, over and over? Why is it such a fight? Why is it always about educating the ignorant? I so admire this piece, but it greatly saddens me that the discussion must be had again and again.

California: State Assembly Passes Bill to Dilute Arts Graduation Requirement
Los Angeles Times Culture Monster Blog, 6/3/10
“California arts advocates suffered their third and worst legislative shutout in less than two months as the Assembly voted 76-0 in favor of a bill that would allow more students to skip arts instruction entirely during their high school years. To earn a diploma now, students have to take at least one year-long course in arts or a foreign language. If the bill, AB-2446, passes the state Senate and is signed into law by the governor, students, starting in the 2011-12 school year, will be able to substitute a ‘career technical education’ course for arts or a language. The bill has a sunset provision, meaning the change would be temporary, staying in effect for five academic years before expiring in mid-2016. Its author, Warren Furutani (D-Gardena) says in a statement on his website that ‘the intent…is to increase high school graduation rates, which is an ever-pressing issue.’ By allowing students to take a technical course rather than arts or a language, backers say, teens aiming for immediate full-time jobs rather than college will be better prepared for them.”
Wait, wait — oh, now I get it! California wants its children to have jobs. Well, that’s noble. What isn’t noble is that the dilution of this requirement will create no jobs in and of itself, and will create a generation of workers that cannot speak another language and know nothing of the humanities in the world in which they live. Which, of course, will make them far greater assets to the workforce. That is, before their jobs are shipped off to some part of the world where workers do speak another language and do know something of the humanities in the world in which they live.

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Federal Agency Still Tracking Works Progress Administration Art
The Washington Post, 6/7/10
“A project quietly launched nine years ago by the agency responsible for most federal property is encouraging art dealers, auctioneers, museums, and yard sale customers to look out for paintings, drawings, and sculptures produced by artists paid by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration. During the Depression, the government paid artists as much as $42 a week, resulting in more than 20,000 images of sandy beaches, snowy farmland, and portraits of everyday people. Many submissions are still displayed at schools, libraries, hospitals, and post offices. The art usually carries a WPA marker, and National Archives records can account for most of the pieces. Responsibility for the art-valued from $3 to $250,000 for a painting by John French Sloan-was transferred to the General Services Administration (GSA) when the WPA was dissolved after World War II. GSA’s Fine Arts Program manages more than 19,000 paintings, murals, and statues at federal buildings nationwide, because federal law requires government-owned buildings to display artwork. But the office is also on the lookout for WPA art that was misplaced, stolen, or given away when the program ended.”
For me, the jury is out on this. Given the dimensions of our federal deficit, the idea of making noise about money to prevent needless speculation in art seems like a drop in the proverbial bucket. We’re to have an argument about this when defense spending is larger than all other nations combined? It is a prescription for resuming the culture wars. By the same token, the art should never have entered the marketplace to begin with.

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Louisiana: Senate Passes Budget with 41 Percent Cut to State Arts Agency
KPLC-TV, 6/7/10
“House Bill 1 left the House of Representatives on [June 4] and has reached the Senate where it’s set to be voted on in the next two weeks. District 35 Rep. Brett Geymann says ‘the budget is still going through the process and funds could be added or even taken away…but I want to add that every agency is likely to see a reduction this year because of the $1.2-billion-dollar deficit that we’re facing.’ Should the budget pass, state arts funding would drop from $2.2 million to $339,000, resulting in a 41 percent decrease, which concerns the Arts and Humanities Council. Executive Director Matt Young says, ‘the cultural economy is the second largest contributor to state employment and already this past year, the arts and cultural world took a loss in the state budget and our office even in fact had some layoffs…it would be devastating and crippling to the arts community.'”
So with the economy of the gulf states set to fall through the floor due to the byproduct of greedy, Republican-led deregulation, why not devastate the cultural economy while we’re at it? Makes lots of sense to me.

District of Columbia: Despite Financial Gain, Park Service Opposes Transformers 3 Filming
The Washington Post, 6/7/10
“As the story goes, the Transformers-enmeshed in intergalactic battle-traveled from the far-off planet of Cybertron all the way to earth in pursuit of an all-powerful talisman. They are having trouble handling the National Park Service, however. Plans are underway for portions of the third segment in the blockbuster series to be filmed in D.C. this September, a chance for the city and its businesses to reap spending on hotel rooms, meals, equipment rentals, taxi rides, and temporary jobs from a production budget some have estimated to total more than $200 million. A dispute with the Park Service, however, over where and what the film crew will be allowed to shoot has producers from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks scaling back their plans for the city. The companies had planned a colossal number of filming days-about 14-in addition to an expected month or more of time in D.C. for other production needs…Bill Line, Park Service spokesman, said…’A lot of this could be more appropriately shot in a Hollywood studio. The National Mall is not an area in which Americans come to see high-tech action movies being shot.'”
I agree with the National Park Service: filming on the National Mall — a car race, no less — would be disgraceful, all the fiscal benefits be damned. Is there nothing, absolutely nothing, that isn’t for sale anymore? Why not film inside the Oval Office? Or the U.S. Senate? Or inside the U.S. Supreme Court? Or inside anybody’s home anytime, anywhere, for any reason, if the price is right? Steven Spielberg, who is supposed to be such a patriot, should know better. Keep off the damn Mall.

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