Arts Advocacy Update 156: Good Morning, Baltimore!

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Nov. 24, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.) Expressions, opinions and/or comments in italics following each story highlighted in 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 here.

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Mississippi: Art Museum Awarded Federal Honor
The Clarion-Ledger, 11/17/10
“A national award means prestigious recognition for the Mississippi Museum of Art’s key mission of community engagement. The art museum in Jackson was among 10 recipients, and the only art museum this year, to be awarded the nation’s highest honor for libraries and museums. ‘It’s not about being the biggest or the best, it’s about relevance in your community,’ Museum Director Betsy Bradley said, citing particular pride in the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, which was announced [this week]. The medal includes a $10,000 prize, which will be used to continue the museum’s community partnerships, Bradley said.”
It should be noted that Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who nominated the museum for the honor, was one of the highest-ranked Republicans on the Arts Action Fund’s Congressional Report Card, with a B+. I’d give him bonus points for this.

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Kentucky: Louisville Orchestra, Union Slugging It Out
The Courier-Journal, 11/15/10
“Contract talks between the Louisville Orchestra and its musicians struck a discordant note [November 15], as representatives of the musicians’ union said the orchestra was threatening bankruptcy if the union did not agree to significant cuts and concessions. Kim Tichenor, chairwoman of the players’ negotiating committee, said the musicians have been told their latest paycheck may be their last if they don’t agree to reduce the orchestra’s size from 71 players to 55. The orchestra also wants to reduce the weeks the musicians work each year from 37 to 31, she said.”
Sigh. That’s all. (Update: Well, management filed Chapter 11. Even classier.)

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Maryland: Beyond Museums, City’s Artistic Enterprises Thrive
The Baltimore Sun, 11/12/10
“Beyond the mighty Baltimore Museum of Art and Walters Art Museum, beyond such long-established, up-market spaces as C. Grimaldis Gallery and Thomas Segal Gallery, a world of artistic enterprise thrives-some of it off the radar or almost literally underground. Baltimore has its share of artist-run, do-it-yourself spaces where the emphasis is more on encouraging and showing new work than selling it, as well as others that are very much in the commercial trade. Some venues are a little hard to find, located in low-foot-traffic areas and in buildings that, at first glance, might be mistaken as abandoned; others occupy inviting, street-level spots.”
I’ve been to Baltimore twice in the last two years, and while I wasn’t there too long, I was impressed by its depth and complexity in terms of the creative economy. This is precisely the kind of press they need! Awesome!

University President: Science and Humanities Blend Well Together
The Patriot-News, 11/16/10
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology President Mel Schiavelli authored the following in an editorial discussing the common ground between science and the arts: “But STEM isn’t mutually exclusive. It’s incumbent on educators to encourage and sustain a creative curriculum, too, that blends in the arts and humanities. Too many institutions focus entirely on one at the expense of the other. This is a disservice to not only students but also the nation’s long-term future. To maximize the potential of the new workforce, educators need to balance science and technology-focused education with the best of the liberal arts, general education, communication, teamwork, and practical application to fully meet the needs of the 21st century business world.”
Excellent editorial. My question: How can arts advocates and science advocates — well, advocates for a STEM-based system — combine their efforts to lobby legislators at the federal level? What advocate for the sciences, for example, would declare an unwillingness to accept grant money if the arts are denied funding? Anyone?

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Texas: Artistic Nudity Almost Leads to Textbook Ban
The Dallas Morning News, 11/16/10
“Plano Independent School District has scrapped plans to remove a humanities textbook after a couple complained about photos of ancient nude sculptures and other works of art…Officials pulled the book, Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities: Alternative Volume, from some classrooms last week. Hundreds of freshmen and sophomores in the district’s gifted and talented program use the text, which has never drawn a complaint in years of use…Administrators reversed their decision [November 15], saying they misinterpreted district policy…The couple noted 49 images they consider objectionable in a presentation they sent to the district. Many were of Greek and Roman sculptures depicting frontal male nudity. Among the more modern images they cite are photographs of Michelangelo’s David and The Kiss by Auguste Rodin.”
Completely absurd. Since when should two complaining people have a right — any right, any remote right — to make decisions on behalf of tens or hundreds of thousands of students and parents? Texas is a lost cause. I’m surprised the National Coalition Against Censorship wasn’t all over this one, too. (I’d help out if they wanted me to.)

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Georgia: Arts Advocates Attempting to Advance Local Arts Tax Bill
The Augusta Chronicle, 11/11/10
“A Georgia arts group plans to reintroduce a bill in the 2011 legislative session that would enable counties to call for a referendum on another penny tax to support the arts, economic development, and cultural initiatives. The bill, also known as the fract tax, died in the waning hours of this year’s legislative session. It will be reintroduced by the Georgia Communities for Growth Initiative, formerly known as Friends of Arts & Culture…Step one involves introducing statewide enabling legislation that allows voters in each Georgia county to decide whether the county should collect another penny sales tax for arts and cultural initiatives.”
One-tenth of a penny, the story says, would be dedicated to a culture fund. And you can be sure the radical right will figure out how to scream about it. I mean, they spend more than a tenth of a penny on their, um, hair.

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