• Just when you think the latest NEA controversy has passed, conservatives take a midnight trip to the graveyard and extract new stupidness from its ugly zombie head. This time, John McCain and Tom Coburn have released a report on “wasteful” spending in the (now nearly year-old) stimulus bill that includes NEA grants to controversial organizations like Shakespeare festivals (um…what?). Sure enough, Fox News dutifully dragged the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s Tom Kaiden on TV to play defense. The most hilarious/disgusting part of it all is how obvious it is that someone went through the list of grants and simply picked out the funny-sounding names (“Spiral Q Puppet Theatre,” “Pig Iron Theatre Company”). Let’s just be thankful the Please Touch Museum was spared!
  • Meanwhile, the reactions to the NEA’s Survey on Public Participation in the Arts are rolling in, and nearly all observers are seeing it as a wake-up call for the field. Judith H. Dobrzynski says it’s all about online delivery; Erin Gore breaks down the numbers; Adam Forest Huttler says we need a Manhattan Project for the arts; Greg Sandow sees vindication and points to a parallel study undertaken by the League of American Orchestras (with similar results).
  • I mentioned last week that a number of theater bloggers were conducting a conversation on diversity in association with a convening at Arena Stage. The Arena Stage New Play Blog now has the full range of commentary from the session up, and the thoughtful reflections continue to reverberate throughout the blogosphere. I particularly enjoyed two contributions from Adam Thurman of Mission Paradox fame and 99 Seats of, uh, 99 Seats fame, both theater professionals of color. Thurman classifies attitudes toward diversity among organizations into four categories, with a “live and let live” frame. 99, meanwhile, writes a very long and personal reflection on the nature of privilege in all its forms, and sums up what I tried to say in my Arts and Sustainability post a while back in about 2700 fewer words: “Time not spent directly making money to survive is a privilege in this country. It’s hard to see, but it’s there.”
  • New Jersey’s cultural community is in tough shape after the Corzine administration ordered a freeze on grant payments promised to arts organizations earlier this year in the face of a $1 billion budget shortfall, apparently at the request of incoming Governor-elect Chris Christie. ArtPride NJ is trying to rally the troops.
  • Hey Fox News, if you want a real culture spending scandal, how about this one? The Smithsonian lost $12.3 million in personal property in four years due to employee theft, including 89 laptop computers. Go ahead, let ’em have it – they deserve it.
  • Budding nonprofit superstar Rosetta Thurman has quit her job to become a full-time consultant, and dishes about the auspicious beginnings of her professional career at Pizza Hut. If you’re also thinking about striking off on your own (or you already have and are trying to figure out how to make it work), don’t miss this helpful resource center at the Entrepreneur the Arts website.
  • Two big arts infrastructure announcements last week: first, Fractured Atlas unveils ATHENA Tix, a new open-source ticketing system aimed at small- and medium-size presenters; and second, the Actors Fund is getting into low-income housing development, starting off with a 160-unit building in Newark. Sadly, low-income arts organizations have had more trouble with their own housing, as the New York Times reports on how the recession has impacted the cultural facility building boom. Of course, lots of financial problems have a way of disappearing when $85 million falls in your lap.
  • Ahem.

    In the survey of 191 foundation executives and officers at 155 grant makers, 76 percent said their organization is effective at “creating impact.” But only 8 percent said they could point to specific data to support such claims.

    Right. So that pretty much says it all. The Center for Effective Philanthropy (the authors of the abovelinked report), by the way, just launched a new blog.

  • Thankfully, some in the foundation world clearly are pushing radical and much-needed change. Paul Grogan, head of The Boston Foundation, is one of them, and it’s not surprising to see him in the middle of this innovative partnership between human service funders to divide up program priorities as efficiently as possible.
  • So umm, is this the future of arts criticism?
  • I know jazzers can be kind of hardcore about what counts as “jazz,” but this is ridiculous.