Arts Advocacy Update 147: Pennsylvania’s Noble Knight

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Sept. 15, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.)

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The expressions, opinions and/or comments in italics following each story highlighted on the Arts Advocacy Update are those of the Clyde Fitch Report and are not endorsed or approved by Americans for the Arts.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010, Americans for the Arts is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. From offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, it serves more than 150,000 organizational and individual members and stakeholders. Visit them online at www.AmericansForTheArts.org.

California: Campaign Tries to Inject the Arts into Governor’s Race
CaliforniaNewswire, 9/10/10
“A committee of arts advocates, leaders of nonprofit arts organizations, creative business owners, and concerned individuals [have] announced a nonpartisan campaign, called Arts in the California Governor’s Race, to raise public awareness and inform the 2010 gubernatorial candidates about the significance of California’s creative industries in fueling the world’s eighth largest economy (Legislative Analyst’s Office, Cal Facts 2006).

‘Despite being the home of hundreds of thousands of artists, world-renowned symphonies, operas, theaters, and museums, and even though we are the global center of popular film, California has fallen to fiftieth nationwide in per capita funding for the arts and cultural policy initiatives,’ said Brad Erickson, president of California Arts Advocates and co-chair of the steering committee, ‘that is why we created this campaign.’

California’s economy is fueled by its creative industries, including both for-profit and nonprofit creative businesses and organizations. Art galleries, individual artists, writers, and performers in California earned over $12 billion in 2008, while photography, music, book, and record store sales totaled over $3.2 billion according to the Creative Vitality Index, an economic development tool developed by the Western States Arts Federation. While the billions of dollars in film industry revenues is common knowledge, foreign sales of motion picture and video products totaled over $10.4 billion just a few years ago, a number that continues to rise. In addition, California’s non-profit arts sector alone generates $5.4 billion in total economic impact each year, creating 66,000 full-time and 95,000 part-time jobs, and returning $300 million in state and local taxes.”
Bravo to them all for taking this on and let’s hope it turns into a meaningful catalyst for some real California dreaming. To be sure, Meg Whitman is never going to doing anything meaningful to fund the arts at the state level — not when she is intent upon pouring tens of millions of her own eBay money into a campaign to turn the Golden State into more of a supply-side nightmare that it’s currently in. But even if Whitman wins, the idea here is to make it clear that ignoring the creative economy in California is a long-term prescription for continued economic devastation, no matter who wins. It may be a matter of how best to preserve and stimulate that facet of the economy, but Whitman cannot overlook it. I’m ready to do anything I can to help.

Hawaii: Community Center Uses Native Culture Lessons to Help Local Youth
Indian Country Today, 9/13/10
“The preservation of culture and precious tradition is becoming increasingly more difficult as the world becomes smaller and more standardized. Individuals are replacing unique cultural lessons with homogenous practices and losing their sense of individuality. At the Ola’a Community Center after school program, Kupukupu, Hawaiian children are learning firsthand the depth of culture and tradition they are a part of in order for them to stay on track and grow to be strong Hawaiian adults. Kupukupu founder and University of Hawaii Community College professor Trina Nahm-Mijo said she developed the program with advisor Rachel Kruse when they saw the impact ‘ice’ or crystal meth was having on families in the Puna region of the Big Island.”
I could make a comment about the birthers and those on the radical right who would just as soon remove Hawaii from the map of American states, but I won’t. Let’s just assume that most rational and decent Americans believe that honoring one’s ethnic and cultural heritage is, in fact, integral to the American experience and essential to the nation’s well-being and survival. All else is xenophobia and not worth the time of good citizens.

New Jersey: Mayor, Youth Choir Join Forces to Break World Records
MyCentralJersey.com, 9/11/10
“An award-winning city youth choir and Plainfield, NJ, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs are thinking big when it comes to addressing the issue of local violence. Really, really big. H.E.R.I.T.A.G.E. (Helping to Enhance Resources by Incorporating the Arts to Gain Education) choir leaders and the mayor said they hope to draw as many as 10,000 people to Cedar Brook Park for an all-day music event next month, marking an effort to shatter a pair of Guinness World Records. According to choir director Donavon Soumas, those records include the world’s largest gospel choir, currently set at 1,000, and the most people performing sign language simultaneously to the same song, currently set at 4,796.”
Such an inspiring story! I’m particularly psyched about the idea of nearly 5,000 people performing sign language of a song simultaneously. That’s called community and equality. I’m in favor.

California: Awaiting Governor’s Action on High School Graduation Bill
The Sacramento Bee, 9/13/10
“A bill that seeks to reduce dropout rates by changing high school graduation requirements statewide has arts education advocates bristling. Assembly Bill 2446 would allow students to pick from a myriad of arts and career technical education or vocational classes instead of requiring them to take yearlong classes in arts or a foreign language…Approved by the Legislature, the bill is on the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has until September 30 to sign or veto it.”
I suppose I’m on the fence on this one. Students should have as much choice as they’re able to handle at the age they’re able to handle it — which sounds like tautological but really asks that kids and parents and teachers all take an active role in being able to determine what a child is able to opt in or out of and when. So, cycling back to the point of this bill and this story, if a student is ready to make a choice between a vocational class and an arts-related class and knows, on the basis of their strong interest, that they’d be happier with a vocational class, they should have that option. And the idea of prepping kids for graduation — and jobs — is not to be lightly dismissed. My question is why the idea of introducing kids to the arts is a matter for the high school level. Arts should have been introduced to students long before this point. Seems to me the bill is really attempting to redress a set of problems that began long before anyone entered the 8th or 9th or 10th grade. That’s really what they should think about. I’d really like to know more about this and to hear some feedback.

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West Virginia: State Superintendent Authors Arts Education Editorial
The Charleston Gazette, 9/11/10
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven L. Paine wrote the following in an editorial about arts education in his state: ‘For many years arts education was seen as peripheral-like the marching band playing the fight song after a touchdown or rows of hand turkeys lining the classroom wall at Thanksgiving. We now understand that arts classrooms need to be dynamic learning environments where high expectations are set and creativity can flourish. When we have achieved this goal for every student in West Virginia, we may no longer need Congress to designate a week in September to bring special emphasis to arts education. Every week may become Arts in Education Week.”
Here, here! Although I need to ask a fundamental question: Why are there still people who have been dragged, kicking and screaming, onto the side of the sense when it comes to this argument? Why are there still people anywhere who view the arts as disposable? Who are they? What are they afraid of? Is it about fearing knowledge, creativity and innovation in their children? Is it a deep-seated terror of modernity?

Michigan: City Council Uses Lawsuit Settlement to Support Theater Program
Flint Journal, 9/14/10
“The Flint City Council is using $50,000 from a lawsuit settlement to support a local theater program and other activities, but one councilman said the money should be used for police. The council approved a $25,000 grant for the New McCree Theatre, a local fine arts program that trains young people in theater production. The council also used most of the balance of the settlement to set up ward accounts for each council member in $2,777 for youth and senior activities in their wards. ‘We need a place in the city for our youth to vent their talents,’ said Councilwoman Jackie Poplar, in support of the McCree Theatre. ‘They’re doing a marvelous job. The talent in the City of Flint is overwhelming.'”
Another example of a priority vs. priority approach to civic life and public funding instead of looking at how a more thoughtful melding of these priorities could complement each other. Of course police are important. But there is no question that providing opportunities for youth to do something that is constructive and positive means, by definition, that those same youth are not out murdering and raping and mugging. The one councilman who wanted all the money to go to the police would have what, exactly? Youth with no hope — thus inspired to commit crimes that will be stopped by the cops? It’s just nutty. Maybe there’s an argument to be made about a balance between funding priorities — and as my knowledge of Flint is limited, maybe there’s something I’m missing. But extremism in defensive of…oh, never mind. It’s not like the councilman in question would understand my point anyway.

Oklahoma: Legislators Begin to Question State Percent for Art Funding
The Oklahoman, 9/9/10
“The Oklahoma Art in Public Places Act passed in 2004 and requires 1.5 percent of the money spent on major state construction or renovation projects go to public art on or near the project. Since 2004, about $726,000 has been spent on public art for three new state buildings and two road projects, according to the Oklahoma Art in Public Places program. In addition, $3.4 million is budgeted for artwork for more than 20 future projects. Rep. Kris Steele (R-Shawnee), House Speaker designate, is a supporter of public art and voted for the act in 2004. But he said [last week] he’ll explore suspending it during the next legislative session.”
One really has to admire how these supposed fiscal hawks blink not an eyelash, ask not a question, offer not a second guess, at why this or that building costs $30 million to put up. Some probably-on-the-take developer, some probably-on-the-make architect blurts out “30 million” and everyone on both sides of the aisle nods and mutters “oh yes, oh yes, 30 million!” But 1.5 percent of that figure — or about the $450,000 mentioned in the article — set aside for art and that’s suddenly considered to be waste and overspending and gutting the salaries of 10 teachers and who knows what other errant nonsense. Such fools. If they questioned the 0ther 98.5 percent of the budget, maybe they’d have a bit of moral standing. But I don’t see that talked about in the piece, do you? No, what I see is hatred, or at least ignorance, of art.

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Ohio: Film Tax Credit Program Extends Reach of State’s Creative Economy
WKYC-TV, 9/15/10
“The Film Tax Credit for Ohio is helping make the state an ideal backdrop for many filmmakers. Meanwhile at Cuyahoga Community College, more students are hoping to get into the industry. Bobby Dorrance is studying film making at Tri-C Metro, hoping to become an editor for feature films one day. ‘I’ve been given the opportunity to work with professionals on professional film sets. I’ve even been given the opportunity to work a paying job,’ Dorrance said of the doors that have opened for him in the past two years. Creative Arts has become so popular a department at Tri-C, the community college built a new, $27-million-dollar metro facility that will house classroom space for students in film, theater, music, and other arts programs.”
Another superlative factoid from the story: more than 1,000 jobs have been created. That’s work! Congrats to Ohio!

Pennsylvania: Knight Foundation Launches New $9 Million Grant Program
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/15/10
“A three-year, $9 million grant program focused entirely on arts and culture in Philadelphia [was recently announced] by the Knight Foundation, a Miami-based philanthropy. Dubbed the Knight Arts Challenge-funding from the foundation must be matched from other sources-the program seeks applications focused on every arts sector and from individuals as well as organizations and institutions…The grantmaking program-Knight began with a Miami challenge three years ago; Philadelphia is the second such program-will officially begin October 5. Applications may be submitted until October 31.”
Obviously a tremendous opportunity and I’d love to see it come to New York City at some point. My only question — and it’s not a criticism, just a call for information — is whether applicants are given some sense of what the fiscal resources might be for finding the matching funds. Is there research assistance given? Is there networking assistance given? Because someone could have an amazing idea but have no idea how to find the rest of the money. I’d like to know more about how this actually works in practice.

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Arts Canvas: The View from the Field
Tim Mikulski, Arts Education Program Manager, Americans for the Arts

As I began writing this blog post, which is serving as both the regular weekly “Arts Canvas” piece for Arts Watch and as one of 29 blog entries that will make up our Arts in Education Week Blog Salon on ARTSBlog, I have my office door closed and my portable iPod speaker is quietly playing the music of an independent singer/songwriter who happens to be from my hometown in Southern New Jersey. It’s one of those days when I need help focusing and Matt Duke’s music is helping.

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And that got me thinking about the influence that music has had on my life over the past 30 years. It just so happens that I just moved out of my twenties over the past weekend and I’m in a reflective mood.

If you don’t mind the indulgence, I’d like to leave the serious arts education policy discussions up to the very capable (and excellent) other arts education bloggers for the week and explore those thoughts.

Now… back to my original point.

All I have to do is hear the first few notes or words of a song on my iPod, on the radio, or even as part of the soundtrack of a movie, and I can be instantly transported back to a certain day or short period of time in my life. I’m sure it is the same for most of you.

Some songs or pieces of music are linked to moments outside of the school setting (I can’t hear 1970s hit “Ring My Bell” without automatically flashing to my Old Navy days), yet just as many are directly linked to my music experiences throughout my K-12 education.

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To read the rest of Tim’s post, comment, and to read other arts bloggers, please visit the Americans for the Arts.
Tim, did you know that Anita Ward is a teacher?