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: Governor Terminates Arts Education-Damaging Bill
The Mercury News, 10/1/10
“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed legislation that would allow school districts to water down requirements for foreign language and art education in high schools. Currently, in addition to courses in English, social studies, math, science, and physical education, the state requires students to take one year of either foreign language or visual/performing arts to graduate from high school. The bill would have given students the choice to take a vocational-education class instead.”
Well, good for the governator — though, if you read the story, Schwarzenegger is using financial costs (“because it did not include limits on new costs to school districts”) as the reason for the veto, not any special feeling for the arts. Still, it’s the right thing to do.
Massachusetts: Arts Center or Veteran Housing?
“In a public planning conundrum that both sides believe will reflect the character of South Boston, the city must decide whether to convert the former police station on D Street into an arts and cultural center or into an affordable-apartment complex for veterans and their families…[At a recent meeting,] supporters of the Patriot Homes apartment complex passed out American flags at the door, while arts center developers offered copies of an open letter to South Boston residents declaring the meeting was ‘your last chance to tell the city what you want for South Boston: an arts and community center…or more low-income housing.'”
Can you say “badly handled”? Why is it either/or? Why is it not possible under the circumstances to be an “and”? The idea of choosing between veterans housing and an arts center of any kind is absurd and offensive all the way around. What we have here is not so much a conundrum, to use the Boston Globe’s word, as a failure of planning, design and imagination. Really sad.
New Jersey: Education Foundations Make Comeback Due to Economy
Asbury Park Press, 10/5/10
“With school budgets being crunched by reduced state aid and pushback from residents about increasing taxes, more school districts are turning to a tool started in some districts during the 1990s to outfit schools with computers-the educational foundation. The New Jersey Education Foundation Partnership estimates there are 325-335 such foundations statewide, a number that is growing as districts start new ones or revive dormant foundations.”
I totally support this, though I would like ask a question. Unless the donations are coming from folks outside the state, county or district, unless the donations are coming from other foundations, who else but citizens of the state, county or district is funding these foundations? And if that’s the case, then what’s the difference between donations to a foundation or being taxed? A tax deduction? Is that what is comes down to?
Oklahoma: District Removes Founding Fathers Rap Education Tool
NewsCore Wire, 10/2/10
“Officials were forced to halt the use of a rap-themed education tool for at-risk students after critics complained about the curriculum’s lyrics, some of which refer to the founding fathers as ‘old dead white men.’ The program, known as Flocabulary, uses raps and rhymes to help students learn academic content. It includes music and corresponding textbooks that explain the lyrics line by line…The Oklahoma City school district said it would put the program on hold to evaluate it after 15 teachers complained about its version of U.S. history.”
Some really unfortunate lyrics in there — but what will be more unfortunate is if the whole idea goes down the tubes, in part due to some people’s issues with perceived urban music. No, the “old dead white men” line isn’t smart. But just watch this smart baby get tossed with the bathwater. Backwards people.
California: Performers, Candidates Speak at Arts Education Panel
Art IS Education blog, 9/30/10
“The California Alliance for Arts Education and the Music Center: Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County presented ‘Education, Creativity, and California’s Future’ at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on September 29. The forum featured celebrities including Jack Black, Ben McKenzie, and others discussing arts education and asking questions of the two candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Assembly member Tom Torlakson and Larry Aceves. The goal of the forum was to discuss the plight and promise of arts education in California public schools.”
Um, can we please have a moment for the name Jack Black and the phrase “arts education” in the same sentence?
Arizona: Economy Forces Artists to Seek Alternative Income
The Arizona Republic, 10/1/10
“Regardless of the economy, [Arizona Art Alliance Board Member Karen] Budan said, it’s common for artists to have a second job. But the artist labor force has been especially hard hit by the recession, forcing many to turn their second job into a primary source of income. Artists’ unemployment rate rose to 9.5 percent in 2009, which was 5.1 percent more than that of all professionals, according to a recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts.”
I guess the facile thing to do is to characterize Arizona as peculiarly — and particularly — anti-arts. But that isn’t true. What does article does do, however, is make it clear that Arizona is especially hard for an artist to make a living in. And the longer Arizona pays insufficient attention to the direction of its creative economy, the longer it will take for Arizona to climb out of the hole.
California: Irvine Foundation Grants $3.8 Million to Arts Groups
The Sacramento Bee, 10/6/10
“The $1.8 million in grants the Irvine Foundation has awarded to five local arts nonprofits is expected to affect the direction of the organizations-some of them profoundly. The grants are part of $3.8 million the foundation has awarded to arts groups in the Central Valley. In Sacramento, the grantees include the Crocker Art Museum, the Sacramento Philharmonic, and the Sacramento Opera, each of which will receive $325,000, and the Sacramento Ballet, which was awarded $300,000. Arts leaders said they’ll spend a good portion of the money on long-term planning and shoring up their finances.”
Very smart of all the recipients. If there’s any debt, they’ll want to look at that as well (unless that’s what is meant by “shoring up their finances.”)
Wisconsin: Local Fund Gives $7.25 Million to Performing Arts Groups
The Business Journal of Milwaukee, 10/4/10
“The United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) will distribute $7.25 million to Milwaukee-area performing arts groups with its 2010 allocation. The allocation from the fundraising organization is two percent more than the $7.11 million distributed last year, but remains 13 percent below the $8.3 million allocation in 2008’s record fundraising year. In 2009, UPAF lowered its campaign goal by 15 percent to account for the economic recession.”
You know, that is just an extraordinary amount of money. I liked Milwaukee so much when I visited — does the rest of the country know how amazing it is?
Indiana: University Receives Grants for Theater Initiative
“Butler University will receive $210,000 in grants from the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation to fund a new theater initiative and continue its longtime support for the Butler Community Arts School. A four-year, $140,000 grant will establish the Christel DeHaan Visiting International Theatre Artist (VITA) program to bring a theater professional from another country to Butler for 8-10 weeks each year to teach special seminars and design or direct a production. Another $70,000 will go to the Butler Community Arts School (BCAS) to provide music education for students at 18 schools or organizations through private or group lessons.”
One small quibble: how is the $140,000 accounted for? That it’s over four years is an important point. Reading this piece quickly, it seemed as if it the grant was annual and my red flags immediately went up.