FEDERAL

More than nine months after former chair Rocco Landesman announced he was stepping down, the search for a new National Endowment for the Arts chairperson has stalled – just in time for the fall budget debates to ramp up in earnest. Sphinx Organization founder and president Aaron Dworkin confirms in the article that he was one of the candidates considered for the position earlier this year. Former NEA Senior Research Officer Joanna Woronkowicz tells us not to worry about the delay. Meanwhile, remember that kerfuffle last year about how Kickstarter was on track to provide more funding for the arts than the NEA? Well, not that this is a surprise, but by now it’s actually happened.

The United States cut off its support of Unesco in 2011 after the international cultural agency recognized the Palestinian Authority as a member nation. The measure was required by U.S. law, but was never supported by the Obama administration, which is now trying its darndest to be supportive of Unesco anyway.

STATE AND LOCAL

At long last, we have had a good year for state arts agency funding. With the economy rebounding and the pall of uncertainty lifting over state budgets, a number of arts councils have managed to claw back a measure of compensation for the dramatic cuts endured over the last four years, though there is still a long way to go. State arts budgets in the aggregate are up nearly 11% or $30 million, the largest nominal dollar increase in over 13 years. Notable success stories from this fiscal cycle include:

  • Texas, whose Commission on the Arts got nearly double its appropriation from last year;
  • Delaware, which received $1.6 million for a new Arts Trust Fund to provide general operating support for large institutions;
  • Arizona, which eked out $1 million in general fund appropriations for its Commission on the Arts for the first time in three years;
  • Florida, continuing its climb back to relevance with $5.7 million in new funding, mostly from line items;
  • Michigan, also continuing a remarkable climb back from near-death with the second year in a row of multi-million-dollar increases;
  • and South Carolina, whose arts commission defeated a gubernatorial veto for the fourth time in four years and on top of that got a hefty 52.4% increase.

California arts advocates did not succeed in dramatically changing the landscape for the California Arts Council, but at the last moment Assembly Speaker John Perez ensured a nearly $2 million increase to the agency’s coffers, bringing California out of the cellar as the cheapest state supporter of the arts on a per-capita basis. Other states with notable increases included Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Utah, and Vermont.

Not all the news was good for state arts advocates, though. The Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, only a year after coming back from being the first state art agency to be vetoed out of existence, has now been slashed almost entirely to the bone again with a paltry appropriation of $200,000, the lowest in the country. Arts councils in Tennessee, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Connecticut, West Virginia, and Wyoming also endured double-digit cuts.

In other state news, a tale of two tax policies: Rhode Island is eliminating taxes on the sale and purchase of artwork, while North Carolina is introducing a new 4.75% “privilege tax” for “admission charges to any live performance or event, any movie screening, any museum, cultural site, garden, exhibit, art show or guided tour.” The North Carolina tax applies to both nonprofit and commercial groups but carves out a number of confusing exemptions for certain festivals, state-supported museums, etc.; basically it sounds like terrible legislation. With that kind of environment, it will be interesting to see if the state extends its sunsetting film tax credit beyond 2014.

INTERNATIONAL

My goodness, the blows just keep coming for arts funding in England. The cuts to Arts Council England over the past few years were bad enough, but it turns out that local funding for the arts will fall another £124 million next year, even though local government budgets in general are up!  Better to be an artist in Britain than Portugal, however, which eliminated its ministry of culture two years ago and shows what happens when you pull the rug of government funding out from under a society that has no tradition of private philanthropy.

The giganta-budget West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in Hong Kong is running into trouble, with construction costs (surprise!) almost double the amount originally planned. The authority has decided to postpone seeking an additional $3.2 billion (I told you it was giganta-budget) payment from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, presumably until things are in better shape.

Three profiles of new/new-ish culture heads: in Canada, Shelly Glover is settling into her new role as Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages; in France, embattled French Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti presides over $3.2b in government spending on culture, which is down 2.8% from last year. France also has gone ahead and ended the “three strikes” provision of its copyright enforcement policy. Finally, Ines Abdul-Dayem is the new culture minister for Egypt. She has quite a story: earlier this year, she was dismissed from her post as head of the Cairo Opera House along with many other cultural officials by Alaa Abdel-Aziz, the man she is now replacing. In June, though, “artists stormed the Ministry of Culture and began an open-ended sit-in to demand the removal of the [now former] minister and the revocation of his decisions.” Shortly thereafter, following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, Abdel-Aziz resigned his position.

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