ART AND THE GOVERNMENT

  • The California Arts Council is in danger of losing its right to solicit voluntary contributions from California citizens through their state income tax returns. Though that wasn’t proving to be a very effective way of raising money anyway – the agency banked only $165,000 from CA’s nearly 40 million residents last year.
  • Arts Council England has published an evaluation of its ambitious program to give out half a million free tickets to the theatre (in actuality slightly less than 400,000 were distributed).

MUSICAL CHAIRS

  • Heather Pontonio has joined the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation as its new arts program officer.
  • Welcome Ayanna Hudson, new director of the NEA’s Arts Education program.

IN THE FIELD

  • Whew! The Los Angeles Times published a brutal exposé earlier this month of problems at Watts House Project, a darling of the fledgling creative placemaking movement that attracted nearly half a million dollars in grants last year from the NEA’s Our Town program and ArtPlace and others. (Update: the NEA wrote in to clarify that while Our Town has supported projects around Watts, the grant is not associated with Watts House Project specifically.) According to the article, the Project and its founder Edgar Arceneaux have alienated some of the residents the organization is supposed to be helping by failing to deliver on promises and succumbing to mission drift. I found  this little bit of gotcha journalism particularly cute:

    As for [Rocco] Landesman, reached by phone in Washington, D.C., he said he based his positive impressions on a slide show by Arceneaux as well as a tour of the block, “and it all looked good.” He also talked to one enthusiastic 107th Street resident, Rosa Gutierrez, whose home received a bright flower mural as part of the program. He said he was not told she was on staff at Watts House Project.

    Consequences were swift. Arceneaux didn’t last the weekend as executive director of the organization, though the announcement leaves the door open for him to remain involved in another capacity. However, another former board member disputes elements of the article, presenting a compelling case that it was unfair to WHP. Nevertheless, the problems don’t seem like they’re going away anytime soon. (Interestingly, I heard Arceneaux’s replacement, Will Sheffie, keynote the Rustbelt to Artist Belt conference in St. Louis just a week after all this went down. He got a warm welcome from the audience, but avoided addressing the controversy in any real depth.)

  • The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is upping the ante again on its radical drive to democratize classical music. The latest move is to offer members tickets to every single one of its concerts for just $5 a month. The article is worth reading in full; essentially they’re saying they’re all but giving up on earned revenue as a serious income driver.
  • Is there a future for cash mobs to support local arts organizations?
  • RIP San Antonio Opera.

RESEARCH CORNER

  • The NEA has a new literature review out on audience impact, conducted by WolfBrown as part of a larger project to study audiences at NEA-funded events.
  • The Nonprofit Finance Fund has released its 2012 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey, which reports that nonprofits are still feeling the economic pinch of the recession even though we’ve officially been in recovery for almost three years. (As an aside, I always have this funny cognitive dissonance whenever I read about nonprofits having a hard time because they’re “unable to meet demand.” If only arts organizations had such problems!)
  • Now conservatives are making a stink about the American Community Survey (the government’s annual replacement for what used to be the long-form Census) because of the nature of its questions. They want to make it optional to fill out, which of course would make it just another poll and destroy its statistical usefulness.
  • Americans for the Arts’s Randy Cohen offers a 2012 update to his popular Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts post. AFTA also released the latest edition of the National Arts Index this month, and this time, there’s a new website–and a nifty new Local Arts Index–to go with it.
  • The Center for Effective Philanthropy finds no major differences between how grantees of color and others experience relationships with their funders.
  • The Ford Foundation has made its internal records from the 1950s and ’60s available for review at the Rockefeller Archive Center in upstate NY. This was a fascinating time in Ford’s history during which it was largely responsible for the growth of symphony orchestras and the regional theater movement across the country.

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