FEDERAL

Breaking news: the government is cutting its funding to PBS! Wait – sorry – hold that. It turns out the NEA is cutting its funding to PBS – to the tune of more than $1 million, to be exact. Talk about irony! The money had been earmarked to support organizations that produce arts-oriented programming on public television through the NEA’s Art in Media program. The grants are large by NEA standards – one organization was receiving $400,000 – and the media program received more than twice as many applicants this past year in part by opening up the guidelines to include interactive forms.

Facing potentially deep cuts to defense spending should the parties fail to come to agreement during this winter’s “lame duck” session, the US Air Force is planning to shutter three of its 23 military bands and downsize two others, eliminating 103 positions in total. An attempt to reduce the Pentagon’s spending on bands by $120 million (note that this is only a little less than the entire budget of the NEA) failed in the House last year.

STATE

The Arizona Commission on the Arts has been reauthorized by Arizona’s state government for another 10 years. In another state that might have been a routine win, but Arizona’s arts commission has been cut to the bone by Republican legislatures and governor Jan Brewer since the start of the current recession, and had been threatened with de-authorization earlier in the process. The cynic in me wonders if conservatives are happy to keep the Commission around as a political punching bag as long as it doesn’t have any real power, but at least if the infrastructure is there the hope of growing it in the future is ever-present. Congratulations to Bob Booker and Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts for shepherding this one through.

Meanwhile, it looks like much-maligned Kansas may be on track to restore funding to its state arts council this year. Rebranded as a creative industries commission, the agency is slated to receive $700,000 in the state’s yet-to-be-passed budget. Of course, it wasn’t until the budget got to Governor Brownback’s desk that the arts commission was vetoed last year, but after the political firestorm and that caused, one hopes that he will see things differently this time around.

Otherwise, things continue to be quiet on the state front. Is no news good news? I guess we’ll find out in a few months.

LOCAL

In the city of Portland, ME (yeah, the other Portland), two arts and creative economy agencies are merging, and the community is seeing the benefits. Creative Portland and the Portland Arts & Cultural Alliance will become the Creative Portland Corporation as of July 1, and will be the official arts agency of the region. Creative Portland has also successfully applied for a Community Development Block Grant to bring Blair Benjamin’s Assets for Artists program to the city.

INTERNATIONAL

The UK is considering a cap on the tax incentives offered for major charitable gifts, and some folks in the arts community there are not happy about it. Similar proposals for this country have been floated by the Obama administration for the past few years, but have gone nowhere to date. Meanwhile, Britain’s Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is implicated in the growing scandal concerning News Corporation’s cozy relationship with the British government. Hunt is accused of acting as a “back channel” to Rupert Murdoch’s news empire during its bid to take over full control of the broadcasting network BSkyB, which it was Hunt’s job to approve.

Hunt isn’t the only minister of culture in the news lately. We had Sweden’s Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, who found herself in the worst photo op of all time the other week. And now, Bahrain’s culture minister is in some serious hot water for calling her conservative critics “not real men” for opposing an arts festival that her office is organizing.

At least these countries have culture ministers. Bosnia and Herzegovnia’s most prominent museums, galleries and libraries may have to close indefinitely due to a dysfunctional, leaderless government that failed to appropriate any federal funds for their operation last year. At Sarajevo’s National Museum, employees haven’t been paid in seven months. Amazingly, it’s still open – for now.

Finally, this is a novel take on the “day without art” concept: an apparently insane museum director in Italy burned one of the paintings in his museum’s collection as a protest against debt-driven funding cuts, and is threatening to destroy three more each week until the Italian government stops to listen. (So far, there’s no indication that it gives a crap.)

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