Both the NEA and the NEH have new official leaders this month: Jane Chu, head of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, will be the 11th chair of the NEA; William “Bro” Adams, formerly president of Colby College, will be the 10th chair of the NEH. Respected internal acting chairs had been manning the ships since Rocco Landesman’s resignation from the NEA at the end of 2012 and Jim Leach’s resignation from the NEH in April 2013. The new appointees are just in time for the Congressional debate over the President’s budget, which requested essentially flat funding for the cultural agencies.

In her previous job, Chu oversaw the mid-recession capital campaign that built the Kauffman Center, a major performance venue that is now home to the Kansas City Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. She has a background as a grantmaker, with a PhD in philanthropic studies and a previous post as the vice president of community investment for the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. A former member of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, she may also be well equipped to reach across the aisle – or at least to continue making the case for the economic impact of the arts.

Adams, a Vietnam veteran and intellectual historian, has led arts and humanities initiatives at several colleges, including the Great Works in Western Culture Program at Stanford and a major expansion of the Colby College Museum of Art. His long and varied resume of experience in academic administration marks a shift from Leach, who had been a Congressman for thirty years at the time of his appointment. We hope he will continue his tradition of open forums entitled, “Yo, Bro.”

Glimmers of hope in state and local arts budgets: For the first time in many years, public arts funding is increasing in notable areas of the country. The Florida state budget now officially includes $56.4 million for the state’s Division of Cultural Affairs, vaulting the Sunshine State past New York to take the prize of most generous state arts council overall – even if you exclude the $12.4 million in line-item funding from that total. Not to be outdone, New York City’s 2014-15 budget includes a $23 million boost for arts education, to be directed toward arts specialist positions, facilities, and partnerships with cultural institutions. On the opposite coast, the California Arts Council received a $5 million boost from the state, bringing its total appropriation to about $9 million. Paltry as it may seem compared to Florida’s investment and California’s size, that $5 million is the first significant increase the CAC has received since it was gutted by more than 90% more than a decade ago. Michigan allocated an additional $2 million for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley gave arts advocates reason to cheer by refraining from vetoing funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission for the first time since 2011.

Debate over equity in arts funding adds to Bay Area arts turmoil: In what may be a harbinger of feuds in other parts of the country, arts advocates in the City by the Bay clashed with one another over funding for arts organizations serving communities of color. A recent report from the Budget Analyst’s Office claims the bulk of funding distributed by San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts/Hotel Tax Fund goes to organizations serving primarily white audiences. Amid calls to address the disparity by boosting funds to the Arts Commission’s Cultural Equity Grants, which target underserved and culturally specific communities, sharp words flew between sub-groups of arts advocates, some of whom felt the Arts Commission and Grants for the Arts were being pitted against each other. The budget for Cultural Equity Grants is now poised to receive $119,000 previously allocated to Grants for the Arts, with further action by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors expected in July. This is all on top of the recent shutdown of the San Jose Repertory Theater after 34 years and the dramatic shrinking of San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts announced last month.

The Detroit Institute of Arts continues on its escape path from the city’s bankruptcy proceedings: The Detroit City Council unanimously approved the museum’s plan to privatize as a charitable trust. The so-called “grand bargain” would ransom the DIA from the bargaining table in exchange for more than $800m in public and private funds to be paid to the city’s pensioners over 20 years. Foundation money currently accounts for more than $350m of that, including major gifts from Ford ($125m) and Kresge ($100m). The museum itself is required to raise $100m of the money; they’re about 70% of the way there, thanks to recent donations from the Big Three automakers ($26m total) and from Mellon and Getty ($10m and $3m). Even if the funds are raised, the deal must still win the approval of pensioners and the presiding judge – which is not guaranteed, as some creditors are calling for part or all of the museum’s collection to be in play to settle the city’s debts.

Creative hubs compete to offer tax credits for film and TV production: A large majority of states offer tax incentives for film and TV production, but the last several weeks have seen several governments advance the arms race. New Jersey’s state Senate passed a bill that would raise the annual cap for film tax credits from $10m to $50m; Austin’s City Council approved reimbursement of up to 0.75% of production companies’ wages; and, not to be outdone, the California state assembly passed a “Film and Television Jobs Retention and Promotion” Act that would add an undefined amount to the current $100 annual kitty. In Pennsylvania, lawmakers may clarify their tax credit rules to better attract feature films and TV series specifically; the shopping network QVC has received more than $26m under the program since 2008. Meanwhile, Boston is kickin’ it old-school: the state legislature is considering incentives to lure live theater headed to Broadway or Off-Broadway to Beantown and the rest of Massachusetts. As we noted in January, the ultimate benefit of incentives like these to citizens is not always clear.

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