Arts Advocacy Update 151: My Old Kentucky Arts Home


The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Oct. 19, 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

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.

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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.

Here are the six easy steps that parents and teachers can take to affect change for arts education in their schools:

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Arts Watch Update

*This section of Arts Watch updates readers on specific news items that have appeared in recent editions.

Texas: Arts Education Law Helps School Band Programs Rebuild
The Dallas Morning News, 10/4/10
“Daggett Middle School, in Fort Worth’s Fairmount neighborhood south of downtown, was unaccustomed to providing for a band that’s now swelled to 58 members. A state law that recently took effect requires that middle school students log at least one fine arts credit in grades six through eight. Many students in North Texas schools like Daggett flocked to the band, causing schedule shuffling and a search for band instruments…The growing enrollment has caused some school districts to ask businesses and parents to donate new or used musical instruments and to comb grant applications.”

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.”

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Culture and Communities

New York: Board of Regents’ Inaction Confuses Museums
The New York Times, 10/4/10
“When the New York State Board of Regents met last month to consider making permanent a set of temporary regulations that bar the sale of artwork by museums to cover expenses, approval was widely considered a fait accompli. The Regents staff members supported such a move, and public officials and museum professionals concerned about such sales, known as deaccessioning, had anticipated that permanent protections would now be on the books. Instead the Regents voted on September 14 to let the regulations expire…The board said it needed more time to address the conflicting viewpoints of many museums, large and small.”

President Obama Declares ‘National Arts and Humanities Month’
Los Angeles Times Culture Monster blog
, 10/4/10
“It’s October and that means cultural institutions around the country will be celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month. President Obama officially kicked off the event by issuing a proclamation in which he stated that ‘American artists, historians, and philosophers have helped enable us to find our common humanity.’ The first family has shown its support for the arts and culture in recent months by hosting regular events at the White House to showcase classical music, theater, dance, and more. In the proclamation, the president also credited the arts for helping to fuel the economy.”

Massachusetts: Arts Center or Veteran Housing?
, 10/1/10
“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.'”

Florida: Gallery Show Honors National Disability Employment Month
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/1/10
“The show at Smoak’s Alchemy studio, at 1215 12th St. W. in Bradenton, is part of the monthly ArtWalk in the Village of the Arts held concurrently with National Disability Employment Awareness month. The featured artists-who come from Florida and other states-suffer from mental and physical handicaps like blindness, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, and post-polio syndrome. Many more artists would have been included in the show but they could not ship or transport the art due to physical limitations or financial reasons. ‘Half these people can’t get out of their houses but they are in there making incredible art that could be in any show,’

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Arts Education and the Creative Workforce

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.”

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.”

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.”


Public Investment in the Arts

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Canada: New Fund to Provide $27 Million for Arts Organizations
Brock Press
, 10/5/10
“Arts and culture have the capacity to enhance quality of life and foster creativity, while also having beneficial economic impacts in a community. The Government of Ontario seemingly supports this belief with the recent announcement that they are investing $27 million dollars to strengthen nonprofit arts organizations receiving operating grants from the Ontario Arts Council. The newly-established Arts Investment Fund will see the Ontario Arts Council release funding to eligible organizations over three years including $11 million in 2010-11, $10 million in 2011-12, and $6 million in 2012-13.”


The Creative Economy and the Private Sector

BMW, Guggenheim Foundation Launch Emerging Leader Program
Philanthropy News Digest, 10/6/10
“The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum and the BMW Group have announced the launch of a global initiative designed to engage the next generation of architecture, art, science, design, technology, and education leaders in addressing challenges likely to face the cities of the future. The BMW Guggenheim Lab will bring together teams of early- to mid-career professionals identified as emerging leaders in their fields to develop new concepts and designs around a specific theme.”

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.”


Philanthropic Giving and the Arts

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.”

Tennessee: Clothing Company, Foundation Donate Keyboards
WSMV-TV, 10/5/10
“Music education is going strong at one school, thanks to a children’s clothing company and VH1 Save the Music Foundation. Gymboree’s newest kids’ clothing line, Crazy 8, donated $30,000 worth of keyboards to J. E. Moss Elementary in support of Save the Music, which works to make sure all children have the chance to participate in music education programs. ‘These students have an opportunity to be exposed to music in a way that not every student is able to be exposed to,’ said third grade teacher Brooke Cantrell.”

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.”

Indiana: University Receives Grants for Theater Initiative, 10/4/10
“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.”