Arts Advocacy Update 160: Hampering New Hampshire?

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of Jan. 12, 2011. (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 not endorsed or approved by Americans for the Arts.

Americans for the Arts, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010, 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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Kansas: Arts Advocates to Rally at Capitol
The Topeka Capital-Journal, 1/25/11
“Proposed budget cuts that would slash funding to the Kansas Arts Commission are being opposed by arts advocates planning a rally at the Capitol area plaza next month. ‘The arts are crucial to economic development and the survival of our communities-especial our rural communities,’ said Sara Myer, who is organizing the February 10 rally. The rally will run from noon to 1:00 p.m. in front of the Kansas Judicial Center…and be followed by a march to the Capitol. Participants will then deliver letters protesting the cuts to members of the legislature.”
My fear, as somewhat expressed in the CFR’s coverage of this situation, is that even the fiscal-impact argument, which I do believe is the most powerful arrow in the arts’ quiver, won’t do the trick, as this is not about money, it’s about ideology. Some people do not believe public money at any level should have anything to do with the arts. That it’s an absurd ideology is another argument entirely.

Florida: Economy Guides Arts Organization Programming
Orlando Sentinel, 1/25/11
“The economic slump isn’t just keeping Central Floridians from attending performing arts events, it’s directly affecting what’s being presented on stages or hung in galleries. The most dramatic example locally: When the curtain rises on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it will be the only staged Shakespearean offering this season from Orlando Shakespeare Theater. It’s the first time in its 22-year history that the company has scheduled only one production by its namesake playwright…Across Central Florida, the recession has kept patrons away from arts and cultural events.”
Obviously not encouraging news. Although I do wonder: Why aren’t artistic directors better at using economic challenges to drive aesthetic decisions? So, you can’t do very many big-cast shows. If it’s a better thing for the theater to have two Shakespeare productions in a season than two, why not aim to discover how smaller-cast Shakespeare can be devised to make it happen? Why is that somehow a signal of weakness or artistic shortcomings?

California: Theater Sees Opportunity in Struggling Neighborhood
San Francisco Chronicle, 1/24/11
“The American Conservatory Theater is taking a serious look at expanding into San Francisco’s Mid-Market district, something many say could be the beginning of a transformation in the area. The nationally renowned theater company wants to turn a run-down triangular lot at the corner of Turk and Market Streets into a $100 million, multistory arts complex filled with a 300-seat theater, housing for visiting actors, and space for a cabaret, classrooms, and retail. While the plan is still in its tenuous early stages, many believe it could bring new vibrancy to an area known decades ago as a lively theater district but now seen as an economic wasteland.”
Referencing the urban-renewal model of Lincoln Center, as this story does, indicates just how enduring the idea is, even at a time when, on the face of it, the idea of raising and spending $100 million in California, of all states, seems so disproportionate to the economics of the area. Will be interesting to see whether this story — which I have to assume was all about raising awareness — gathers steam.

New Hampshire: Bill Strikes Arts Education from State Standards
The [Nashua] Telegraph, 1/19/11
“About 150 people turned out for the House Education Committee’s hearing on HB39, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Boehm (R-Litchfield)…The bill would strike arts, world languages, health, technology education and information and communication technologies from the list of subjects defined as an adequate education by the state…leaving language arts, math, science, social studies, and physical education as the only state-mandated subjects. While recognizing the value of the subjects he proposes to remove, Boehm, vice chairman of the education committee, said the total cost goes beyond what the state is providing in funding.”
So, just to be clear, Rep. Ralph Boehm believes that the children of New Hampshire ought to be stifled creatively, illiterate, fat, technologically ignorant — and ignorant and ignorant? What is he, a secret agent for Vermont?

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Alaska: School Districts, Arts Agency Collaborate in Residency Program
Kodiak Daily Mirror, 1/19/11
“Kodiak Island Borough School District (KIBSD) is one of three school districts participating in a three-year project with the Alaska State Council on the Arts to redesign artist residencies in schools. ‘For many years we have had artist residents visit classrooms,’ said Marilyn Davidson, KIBSD director of instruction. ‘But now we’re looking at something that will have a longer-term impact.’ One idea is developing local artists as artist teachers…The Juneau School District has done the same workshop three times in the past, and has trained a number of artists they drew from their residencies. Anchorage only had three artists participate in the workshop this year, compared to Kodiak’s nine.”
Speaking comparatively, why is Kodiak more arts-friendly than Anchorage? Or is that just through the education lens?

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South Carolina: Advocates Rally After Governor Proposes Arts Cuts
TheState.com, 1/25/11
“The arts community, reacting to Gov. Nikki Haley’s proposal to cut state money for the [state] arts commission, has been flooding legislators with phone and e-mail messages. The effort doesn’t have much time. The first discussion of the arts commission’s budget for the state’s fiscal year that starts July 1 comes before a House Ways and Means subcommittee [January 26]. Rep. Chip Limehouse (R-Charleston), chairman of that subcommittee, said calls and e-mails have started rolling in from arts groups. Limehouse, who said he considers himself a supporter of the arts, said he hasn’t decided his position on the governor’s proposal.”
I humbly refer you to what I wrote, above, about Kansas, to wit:

My fear, as somewhat expressed in the CFR’s coverage of this situation, is that even the fiscal-impact argument, which I do believe is the most powerful arrow in the arts’ quiver, won’t do the trick, as this is not about money, it’s about ideology. Some people do not believe public money at any level should have anything to do with the arts. That it’s an absurd ideology is another argument entirely.

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Arizona: Governor Offers Cuts to Arts Commission General Fund
Phoenix New Times Jackalope Ranch blog, 1/24/11
“Gov. Jan Brewer slapped the Arizona arts community last week with additional budget cuts in her proposed budget for 2012-2013. The proposed budget eliminates appropriations to the Arizona Commission on the Arts’ (ACA) general fund and includes an eight percent reduction to the Arizona Arts Trust Fund. ‘The economic crisis in Arizona is having a significant impact on the nonprofit arts industry,’ says Robert C. Booker, executive director of the ACA…Brewer’s proposed budget would reduce state money allocated to the arts commission by 30 percent.”
I humbly refer you to what I wrote, above, about Kansas and South Carolina, to wit:

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My fear, as somewhat expressed in the CFR’s coverage of this situation, is that even the fiscal-impact argument, which I do believe is the most powerful arrow in the arts’ quiver, won’t do the trick, as this is not about money, it’s about ideology. Some people do not believe public money at any level should have anything to do with the arts. That it’s an absurd ideology is another argument entirely.

Story continues below.



North Carolina: Film Incentive Strategy Unclear in Uncertain Times
Wilmington Star-News, 1/19/11

“About a week before the 2011 state legislative session begins, it’s unclear how the new General Assembly will make its mark on film industry incentives, or whether it will take them up at all this time around. To try to steer more films to North Carolina, state economic development officials are expected to make the case that other states still have better incentive options, even after lawmakers signed off on improved film incentives in 2010. But in a year when a vise grip will be placed on the state’s pocketbook because of a $3.7 billion budget gap, legislators might not be feeling generous about granting more perks for the industry.”
These are bad times in which to rely on smart economics. If North Carolina, especially the radical right in the state, forces it to turn its back on film incentives, it does so purely at its own risk.