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.
New Jersey: State Agency Recommends Atlantic City Arts District
Press of Atlantic City, 10/10/10
“Using other cities as guides, a state development agency wants to create an arts district that would transform some gritty or overlooked parts of Atlantic City into galleries, studios, and affordable housing for artists…Mississippi Avenue, in the working-class Ducktown neighborhood, would be the spine of the arts district. Anchors would include Ducktown’s Dante Hall Performing Arts Center and the nearby Boardwalk Hall, the city’s main concert and sports venue…The boundaries of the arts district remain unknown because the project is still in the preliminary stages, but officials envision pieces of it spreading across town.”
All very promising. I do question whether the construction of a parking lot can really spur growth, but perhaps it is better to show that something can be built than gabbing on about ideas without too much for show for it.
Alabama: Art Center Doesn’t Let Economic Crisis Go to Waste
The Tuscaloosa News, 10/10/10
“Approaching its big annual party, the Kentuck Art Center has cleaned house. That’s not just a metaphor. With the assistance of the Alabama Productivity Center and volunteers, Kentuck staff has been clearing things away, getting rid of clutter, making the office function more efficiently. Efficiency translates to savings, and in lean economic times for everyone, not just arts groups, that can make the difference between black and red ink…After difficult years, financially and structurally, Kentuck feels leaner and stronger.”
What I find refreshing is the idea that there are efficiencies to be found in nonprofit arts groups. My strong sense is that nine out of ten times you mention such an idea to an arts org., the default reply is something between umbrage and outrage, followed by much bellowing about how underfunded and understaffed they are. Which all may be true. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t waste or, to use a less upsetting term, inefficiencies in their operations. This story is the kind of tool arts advocates can use to make the case — and it’s an important one — that resources really are considered precious. It could do them in good stead to make that case more often, especially to public funders.
Arizona: Arts Committee Leaves Off ‘s’ for Savings
The Arizona Republic, 10/9/10
“The bad economy has taken a toll on Avondale that may soon include losing the letter ‘s’ in the Municipal Arts Committee. What the loss of the letter has to do with the budget was the subject of discussion at the City Council meeting [October 4]…The committee endorsed the name change to the Municipal Art Committee because it wants to clarify it has one mission and one goal, which is public art, and it wants to do that well, [Assistant City Manager Rogene] Hill said…Hill said she doesn’t believe the committee would be limited if it wants to expand to other arts in the future, but now is not the time for that.”
I don’t know if this is more sublime or ridiculous. I do know it’s foolish.
Kentucky: College Students Create Local Arts Council
Associated Press, 10/9/10
“A group of college students have formed an arts council aimed at focusing more attention on visual, musical ,and dramatic artists in eastern Kentucky. Evan Harrell and Kevin Smith, the president and vice president of the council, conceived the idea for the project while on a drive around town. The two were discussing the arts and the potential of Middlesboro, when the idea for a council devoted to the arts was born. Harrell told The Middlesboro Daily News that awareness is the key to making the council successful. [So far,] the group has a Facebook page with more than 100 followers, as well as an independent website.”
The story says some “members of the community offered support for the endeavor, but others have been critical,” yet doesn’t actually quote anyone critical. If there’s someone out there who thinks it’s a bad idea to have such a local arts council, let them stand up and be counted. Isn’t this, in fact, the very essence of Rand Paul-style democracy — let the people decide? Guess it would be too much to ask the right to be consistent. Bravo to Harrell and Smith!
Florida: Federal Grant Funds Arts Integration Program
South Florida Sun Sentinel South Florida Schools blog, 10/11/10
“Research shows that non-English speaking students have an easier time in the classroom when schools use programs emphasizing the arts. Now, two Palm Beach County public elementary schools will be at the center of a major national grant for this purpose. The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded a four-year $1.2 million grant designed to help more students learn through the arts…During the project, the district will follow and record progress by the students in core academic areas such as math, reading, and science. The goal will be to show the best techniques that can be replicated at other schools.”
Nice story, if a little short. Would be great to get into the “how.”
New York: Arts Groups Face State, County Budget Cuts
The Buffalo News, 10/5/10
“After last week’s announcement of major cultural funding cuts from Erie County, Western New York’s arts groups have been hit with more financial bad news. This time, it’s coming from New York State. Arts education advocates are decrying the State Council on the Arts’ recent decision to slash funding to local educational arts groups by 69 percent. Similar programs in New York City, they said, were cut by less than one percent. ‘I’m outraged, and I find this to be absolutely unacceptable,’ Assemblyman Sam Hoyt said at a news conference.”
And where were these good folks when everyone in New York was fighting Paterson’s proposed 40 percent cut in arts funding?
Maine: Survey Shows Economic Strength of Museums
The Portland Press Herald, 10/10/10
“For a long time now, we’ve heard museum directors talk about the economic impact of their institutions in Maine, but we’ve never really heard them talk in specific terms. Most of their discussion has been anecdotal, or limited to individual museums…That’s no longer the case. Thanks to a recent survey commissioned by the Maine Arts Commission and executed in part by one of Maine’s leading independent economic consultants, museum directors and their advocates now have hard data with which to make their cases. According to the survey ‘Maine Museums: An Economic Impact Study,’ 442,000 people visited 14 Maine museums in 2009 and spent nearly $71 million.”
The entire population of Maine is approximately 1.38 million, according to the census bureau. Yet it isn’t a good idea to ascribe too much to the numbers. According to the report, 60 percent of visitors to Maine museums live outside of Maine and 52 percent identify the primary purpose of their trip as vacation.
North Carolina: Arts Council Exceeds Fundraising Campaign Goals
Winston-Salem Journal, 10/13/10
“Officials with the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County said [October 12] that they have raised $27.7 million in their three-year fundraising campaign, exceeding their goal of $26 million. ‘Three years ago, some people thought we should postpone the campaign because of the tough economy,’ said Tonya Deem, the council’s board chairwoman. ‘However, the board believed that even in difficult times this community would rally around the arts and a campaign that would result in our being favorably positioned in the new, creative economy that is the future of this city and the region. The positive attitude paid off.'”
This is just an extraordinary amount of money. Other states and localities should be paying close, close attention to how they pull this off.
Arts Canvas: The View from the Field
Tim Mikulski, Arts Education Program Manager, Americans for the Arts
Having worked for a state legislative caucus and an individual legislator at the beginning of my career, it always amazes me that potential arts advocates feel that contacting local or state officials is either a difficult or frightening experience.
As arts education programs across the country continue to face uphill budget battles in individual school districts and even within schools, it is the perfect time to sit down with leaders at all levels to discuss the benefits of arts education and the good work that you do or witness others doing in your own communities.
Recently, I have been working on a new tool kit for our Keep the Arts in Public Schools Facebook Cause that provides teachers, students, and parents with a few easy steps for those groups to take to support arts education in their respective schools.