Arts Advocacy Update 161, 162: Connecticut Killing One Percent for Art?


The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blasts of Feb. 2 and Feb. 9, 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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Pennsylvania: New Project Maps Arts Partnership Opportunities
Technically Philly blog, 2/8/11
“By cross-listing social indicators and staff outreach, a Temple University-housed data shop is going to give the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance a tool to determine areas within this region where partnerships between arts organizations working on social issues and other activist groups are most likely to be successful. ‘We tell stories with data and information,’ says Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project Coordinator Michelle Schmitt. ‘This project is a perfect example of that.’ It’s called the Road Map for Regional Activity Analysis, and the tool [is] expected to be completed in the spring.”
Jobs, jobs, jobs — and fiscal impact, fiscal impact, fiscal impact. Let’s keep this in mind while this very worthy endeavor ramps up.

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Massachusetts: Students As School Board for Better Arts Education
Newbury Daily News, 2/9/11
“High school drama students Christine Beluk, Shelby Steeves, and Sam Moore will be leaving their alma mater in a couple of months, but they want to leave it better than it is today. Specifically, the three recently came before the School Committee with their drama teacher Lisa Zaleski to implore members to use whatever means necessary-funded or not-to return the once-strong theater and visual arts, music, and chorale programs to the city’s schools. The return of programs decimated in 2007 amid massive budget cuts won’t mean much to them going forward. But it will affect the kids with creative spirits like theirs.”
It’s a pleasant surprise that there aren’t villains in this story — only people who get it, who agree that the arts are absolutely essential to an education and would like to find a way to fund it. Bravo to all of them — especially the students — and here’s hoping their pleas go appropriately and satisfactorily addressed.

Virginia: Additional Physical Education Time Could Hurt Arts
Fairfax Times, 2/8/11
“A state-level proposal to increase physical education time in elementary schools could cost Fairfax County Public Schools both time and money, said Assistant Superintendent Barbara Hunter…The new proposal would increase the current state requirement of 60 minutes per week of P.E. to 150 minutes for elementary school students. ‘We’ll essentially have more time for P.E. than science,’ Hunter said…Among those most concerned about the time crunch caused by the proposed requirement are elementary music and arts teachers. Music classes at the elementary school level last about 45 minutes, but instructors are worried even this allotment might soon disappear.”
To quote Stephen Sondheim:
“Is it always ‘or’? Is it never ‘and’?”

Texas: Governor Proposes to Dissolve Arts, Historical Commissions
American-Statesman, 2/8/11
“Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to call for the Legislature to indefinitely suspend funding to the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) and the Texas Historical Commission has cultural leaders crying foul…The arts agency’s budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year is $14.8 million. Nine percent of that comes from the state’s general revenue fund…But cultural leaders said that the dissolution of the agency would have far greater effect than the potential budget savings under Perry’s plan. ‘Dissolution of the TCA would have a ripple effect that would reach across the state, with the greatest impact on small and rural communities,’ said Amy M. Barbee, executive director of the Texas Cultural Trust.”
My comments are here, here and here.

Connecticut: State Percent for Public Art Law Under Fire
Hartford Courant, 2/5/11
“A longstanding law requiring the state to buy artwork equivalent to one percent of the construction cost of any building it erects or renovates could soon be scrapped. State Sen. Paul Doyle said the requirement, on the books since 1978, is something the state can no longer afford in the face of a deficit projected to top $3.5 billion. He has submitted a bill to eliminate it. ‘I appreciate the arts but we’ve got to make some tough decisions,’ said Doyle…’This is an example of one of those decisions. It doesn’t hurt people in terms of the safety net…it doesn’t take food off the table of a poor person.'”
Dear State Senator Paul Doyle:

With all due respect, and not to be even the tiniest bit unaware of the enormous budget deficit facing Connecticut, but what an absurd and financially unimpressive piece of mock-legislation.

The Rest of the Rational Universe

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Tennessee: New Granting Program Launches in Knox County
Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/8/11
“A new program that will raise private money for Knox County arts, historic, and cultural groups was announced [February 7], gathering verbal support and financial backing on its first day. The Arts & Heritage Fund would grant money it raises to qualifying arts and cultural groups and historic sites in the greater Knoxville area. Grants would be awarded after June 30 and continue annually. Some money would be set aside to begin an arts endowment. The fund was announced at a news conference attended by both Knoxville and Knox County mayors, private sector contributors, and representatives of Knoxville arts groups and historic sites. The fund’s first-year goal is $250,000.”
You’d think I’d be wary of this but I’m not. This is precisely what arts supporters should be looking at — ways of generating private dollars, rather than screaming about the diminution of public funding. I applaud.

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Kentucky: Free App Provides Gallery of State’s Public Art
Reuters, 2/1/11
A new iPhone app is opening up Kentucky’s art scene to the public by bringing thousands of works of art in small American communities to a wider audience. The free app includes images of local public art along with a brief description of each piece and information about the artist who created it, as well a precise GPS location. Students and faculty at the University of Kentucky and the Gaines Center for the Humanities in Lexington developed the app called Take it Artside!.”
I love the gaming aspect of this, which turns out to be a significant part of the article and of the app. Very, very smart — I’ll be curious to see whether the idea catches on nationwide.

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Minnesota: New University Structure Plan Hurts Arts
The Bemidji Pioneer, 2/1/11
“With the wind chill nearing 10 degrees below zero…Kim Karle stood shivering as she held one end of a sign that read, ‘BSU performs major surgery, removes heart of Bemidji, fine arts culture.’ Karle was one of dozens of protesters who stood underneath the archway in front of Deputy Hall, the administration building at Bemidji State University (BSU), holding signs, shouting cheers and asking passing drivers to ‘honk if you love the arts…’ The protesters, made up of BSU students, faculty, retired staff, alumni, and community members, came and went” throughout the day.
This is what I’m talking about. (I mean, this is what I’m talking about.) This is precisely the energy that the sector ought to harness. Wish I’d known about this earlier. My hat (and gloves) are off!

Washington: Legislator Proposes Annual Fee to Save Museums
The News Tribune, 1/25/11
“Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, who introduced a bill to charge $30 a year for parking at state parks, wants to amend the measure to add another perk to the permits: access to the state’s history museums. Gov. Chris Gregoire proposes mothballing the museums in Tacoma, Spokane, and Olympia to save the state five million dollars over two years. She also has proposed eliminating the state arts commission. Lawmakers are looking for alternatives…[Currently,] admission fees raise hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, said Washington State Historical Society Director David Nicandri, but Van De Wege’s proposal could raise several million.”
What the Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire, wants to do there is a horror show. Let’s hope Rep. Van De Wege is at least successful in raising the notion of alternatives to his governor’s plan.

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Georgia: Saving State Arts Agency on Advocates’ Minds
Georgia Public Broadcasting, 1/27/11
“Backers of the arts in Georgia pushed their case for one million dollars in funding at the state capitol this week. Arts advocates want to make sure a restructuring of Georgia’s Council for the Arts doesn’t leave federal money on the table. Last year House lawmakers proposed to eliminate money for the Council for the Arts, and replace it with a new agency. But funding was restored-the Council survived-and matching federal arts funding preserved.”
Let’s remember, too, that it required several hundred Georgia arts advocates to storm their capitol building in order to preserve their council. Who wants to bet that we’ll see a repeat this year?

Texas: ‘Average Donor’ Campaign Raises Funds for Arts Hall, 1/30/11
“The Arts of Collin County added more than 400 new donors in the past two years when it took the grassroots approach, focusing on average individuals. The growth in giving for the arts hall includes Plano, with 116 new donors. The 133 total Plano donors have given about three million dollars, with the median donation at $100…As of the end of last year, 480 donors from across North Texas had contributed to the project. [The Arts of Collin County Executive Director Mike] Simpson said his goal was 2,500 donors.”
Well, it’s not as if their crackpot governor is going to preserve state funding, so good for them!