(Note: this ATH is already quite long, so I’m going to split it up into two parts. Look for the rest of the links in a few days.)
A quick note about some upcoming speaking engagements: I’ll be on a panel next month at the annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium hosted by American University, speaking on the topic of “What Makes a Good Arts Leader?” I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with the NEA’s dynamic and ubiquitous Director of Public Affairs, Jamie Bennett, and my good friend Stephanie Evans of Americans for the Arts. The symposium takes place on Sunday, April 3 in Washington, DC, and my panel is in the mid-afternoon (3:45-5:00). Secondly, I’ll be co-hosting a discussion as part of Kathy Supové’s Music with a View Festival at the Flea Theater in New York on March 30, talking about some of the themes raised in my article for NewMusicBox, “Composing a Life.” Come say hi if you’re around!
- So, Congress reconvened and passed a two-week continuing resolution that features $4 billion in cuts – including the elimination of the $40 million arts education program at the Department of Education. Meanwhile, negotiations are taking place now on the longer-term continuing resolution that will fund the federal government for the rest of the year. The version that the House passed a few weeks ago contains a 25% cut to the NEA. Guy Yedwab has an excellent roundup of reasons to support the NEA (although I do advise leaving any return-on-investment arguments to the professionals). Lex Leifheit suggests that we get our parents and grandparents involved in arts advocacy, a la Sarah Silverman’s Great Schlep.
- Some general commentary on the budget fight: Richard Kessler reminds us that this is not just about the arts, but rather a wholesale attempt to roll back the New Deal, and David Brooks suggests that we should be allying ourselves with other interest groups who stand to lose from cuts to discretionary funding, not fighting against them.
- Obama is also trying again to lower the limits on the charitable deduction donors can take on their taxes. This has some in the nonprofit community worried, and it is worth noting that arts organizations are disproportionately supported by high-net-worth donors most likely to be affected by the changes. I don’t know, though – I am skeptical that the tax deduction is as significant a motivator in donor behavior as most people seem to think it is. (Most of the research I’ve seen on this suggests otherwise.) I think the impact to arts organizations would be real, but not as big as feared.
- There are advocacy doings at the state and local levels too. Governor Walker of Wisconsin, already endearing himself so much to lefty-leaning artists through his union-busting ways, is threatening to severely reduce arts funding in that state as well. At least Chicago’s new mayor – and former ballet dancer – Rahm Emanuel has pledged support. And it looks like our friends in Kansas may have enough support in the state legislature to save their arts council. (That article is well worth the read, by the way.)
- Don’t forget that government advocacy is not the only kind that’s important. The Meyer Foundation, which had long been an arts supporter in the DC area, has adopted a new strategic framework that leaves the arts out in the cold. Obviously many fewer people have the ability to influence the decision-making processes of private foundations than do government bodies, but those who do have that influence should not be afraid to use it.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
- The conversation Rocco started a month ago continues. The most interesting content lately belongs to Scott Walters, who recounted his experience attending a convening of arts leaders at the NEA to discuss the issues at hand; here is more.
- Meanwhile, the NEA released a trio of research reports re-examining aspects of the well-worn Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Perhaps the biggest headline comes from the fact that when you expand the definition of arts participation beyond ticket sales at the likes at the symphony, opera, art museum, etc. to include things like engagement with electronic media and personal creation, the proportion of people who engage with the arts rises to nearly 3 in 4. Thomas Cott has a great round-up of the reports themselves (which also examine the roles of arts education, age, and generation in arts attendance) as well as reactions from around the web.
ALL ABOUT ORCHESTRAS
- Man, a lot has been happening in Detroit since we last checked in. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s season is now cancelled, but rumors fly that management is considering hiring replacement players. Now the musicians are proposing binding arbitration to resume the season without a contract, under the terms that management last proposed, and are impatient for a response. Yikes!
- Last year, I predicted that composers would use the method employed by Eric Whitacre to create his Virtual Choir to crowdsource performances for their own pieces. It looks like this is now, in fact, happening, as Canadian composer Glen Rhodes is starting up a “virtual orchestra project” to play an original composition of his. (There’s a nice interview of Rhodes by Tara George at the above link.) Meanwhile, the YouTube Symphony, which is a live-action flesh-and-blood orchestra composed of members who auditioned via YouTube, is having another go-round under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas.
PHILANTHROPY AND GENEROSITY
- Americans for the Arts has joined up with Hyundai for a test of whether slactivism can help the arts: Hyundai’s new ad campaign, “Cure Compact Crampomitosis,” has AFTA as a charitable partner. For each person who joins the Facebook Causes page set up by Hyundai for the purpose, the car company donates 50 cents to AFTA – up to a maximum of $25k. (They are already more than halfway there.) On the one hand, I’m very glad to see a car company choosing an arts organization for support rather than any of the thousands of more traditional charities it could have picked. On the other hand, though, it seems like a pretty damn good deal for Hyundai…only $25k for 50,000 deep impressions? If just a handful of people buy cars as a result of this campaign, Hyundai comes out ahead. (In fairness, Hyundai is also matching donations made through the page, which nearly doubles the commitment as of this writing.) Well, good luck to them.
- Is giving money to the homeless a good way to help after all? Maybe it is, if you just ask them what they want and buy it for them.
- I’m still making my way through Animating Democracy’s excellent Impact Arts site, but I can already tell it’s going to be a tremendous resource for me as well as the field.
- A new cultural policy think tank is in the house, and it wants your input: the Institute for Culture in the Service of Community Sustainability. Headed by Paul Nagle, ICSCS (pronounced “Isis”) is an affiliate of the British think tank DEMOS and takes a radically democratic approach to its work. Nagle has two guest posts on the IT Foundation blog that are well worth reading.
- Is extending copyright to fashion designers a good idea? UCLA economist and sociologist Gabriel Rossman says no.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
- Muhammad Yunus, the grandfather of microfinance, is being forced out as the head of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in what many see as a politically-motivated vendetta.
- Ex-Senator Chris Dodd is going to lead the Motion Picture Association of America, taking over for the legendary Jack Valenti.
- Former Hewlett Foundation Performing Arts Program Director Moy Eng will be the new head of the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, CA.