Digital Painting Caricature of Paul Ryan by David Lacasse | via Creative Commons

Digital Painting Caricature of Paul Ryan by David Lacasse | via Creative Commons

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, will live to see another day after the American Health Care Act (AHCA, a.k.a. Trumpcare or Ryancare) failed to make it to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote March 24. Despite the president’s campaign promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, Republicans who had spent eight years vehemently opposing the ACA could not come to an agreement on a bill that would appease enough conservative GOP Congressmen to secure passage. The kibosh placed on the AHCA means the survival of the status quo, at least for the time being. It remains to be seen whether the administration will take any measures to save the current system from “exploding,” as Trump termed it. The longer Obamacare (or some form of it) survives, the bigger of a win it is for self-employed artists and creative workers, many of whom have depended on Obamacare to gain access to health insurance. (See Createquity’s coverage of the original passage of the Affordable Care Act here.) For now, Trump seems disinclined to try again with a new healthcare bill, preferring to move on to new legislation including tax reform and infrastructure.

Trump follows through on threats to cultural agencies. In a widely anticipated move, the Trump administration’s initial budget proposal cuts large swaths of the arts and culture sector, fully defunding several key federal agencies including the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB, which funds NPR and PBS), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and others. We shared our thinking on this development earlier this month, but it’s hard not to notice that the NEA and CPB tend to suck up all the energy in this particular debate. In reality, the NEH and IMLS are significant in their own right, with IMLS’s budget greater than either Endowment. As with most policy questions, the issues here are not black and white: in an op-ed for the Washington Post, for example, CPB board member (and Obama appointee) Howard Husock questions whether federal subsidies on television and radio remain necessary in a totally different media landscape that now creates plenty of content for audiences that, 50 years ago when the CPB was formed, had few to no options. People can and do make similar arguments about whether public libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions are still needed in the digital age, but we tend to side with Cosmo on that one. Ironically, some of the greatest contributions of agencies like the NEH, IMLS, and NEA are in research, which is useful in determining whether such institutions are remaining relevant. In any case, Congress ultimately must sign off on the new budget, and while it may not vote strictly down party lines, state agencies, philanthropic organizations and arts organizations are bracing for a blow, with rural, red states standing to lose the most if Trump gets his way.

Borrowers “cannot rely on” student loan forgiveness. For the 550,000 people working in public service, the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program provides an “out” to student loan debt. Or at least that’s what they’ve been led to expect. The program promises to cover student loan debt for individuals who work at least ten years in the public sector for national, state, or local government agencies; service fields such as public school teachers, police and firefighters; or non-profit organizations, many of which serve the arts. While the program especially benefits professionals such as lawyers working as public defenders, it has also enrolled many artists who work in the public sector and have likewise amassed considerable debt. But enrollees got a jolt when, on March 23, the Department of Education issued a legal filing indicating that borrowers enrolled in the program may no longer qualify for loan forgiveness, and that the offer may be rescinded at any time. This filing comes on the cusp of the program’s tenth anniversary in October of this year, when the first wave of qualified workers can file claims after the required ten years of service. While legal battles over loan forgiveness will likely unfold case-by-case, the development has raised red flags among student-loan advocacy groups. For his part, President Trump campaigned on the idea of an income-based repayment program for everyone, whereas the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program requires consistent full-time employment with an organization for ten years (which is perhaps less beneficial for artists given the growing freelance economy).

Disney refuses to go back in the closet for Malaysia. The new live-action version of the beloved 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast has received a whole lot of press, in part because it’s the first Disney film to include an openly gay character. The reaction has been mixed, with LGBTQ activists questioning the choice of Gaston’s bumbling sidekick LeFou as its only LGBT character ever, while anti-gay activists at home and abroad are either refusing to screen the film or asking for amendments to the “gay moment.” In Malaysia, Disney postponed the film’s release in response to film censors’ request that they cut out the “scenes promoting homosexuality,” which is punishable by law in the country. But befitting a Disney movie, this story has a happy ending … kind of. Shortly after Disney announced it would not alter the film, the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia relented and will let the four minutes of gay stuff slide, but you’ve got to be 13 years old to get in to see it.

Destruction of cultural heritage is now a war crime. While the rise of ISIS and the Syrian war have taken their toll on precious art, artifacts and global heritage sites in a culturally significant region of the world, donors and the United Nations are fighting for conservation – with dollars and legislation (if that’s any kind of reassurance in a war zone). The UN was already focused on addressing the looting and an international trafficking ring of artifacts from war-torn areas of the Middle East into Europe and the US, but upped the ante significantly on March 24 when the UN Security Council declared that intentional destruction of cultural artifacts and heritage sites could be punished as a war crime. While a welcome measure, it remains to be seen whether this move will successfully prevent the total demolition of culturally relevant sites such as Palmyra as the conflict continues.

MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS:

  • The New York Times announced that Jesse Green (formerly of New York magazine) will fill the vacancy left by Charles Isherwood on May 1 as a co-chief theater critic with Ben Brantley. Isherwood, who was suddenly fired by the Times last month, is reportedly moving to Broadway News, a new online source spearheaded by the daily theater newsletter service Broadway Briefing.
  • The New Yorker hired Kevin Young as its new poetry editor. He replaces Paul Muldoon, who stepped down March 15 after a decade in the job.
  • After 15 years, executive director Pam David will step down from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund at the end of 2017.
  • Baltimore’s Mid Atlantic Arts ‏Foundation named Theresa Colvin as its new executive director following the retirement of Alan W. Cooper. Colvin is leaving behind 30 years at the Maryland State Arts Council, 16 of which she served as executive director.
  • The Vermont Arts Council’s Alex Aldrich has announced he will step down as executive director after 20+ years at the agency.
  • In the past year, three of the six major Hollywood film studios have had a change in leadership involving replacements of top executives.
  • London-based charity Julie’s Bicycle has multiple administrative positions available. The organization focuses on creativity as a resource for combatting climate change and promoting environmental sustainability.
  • Metris Arts Consulting, a firm based in Easton, PA, and committed to measuring and evaluating arts impact and improve cultural vitality, is seeking a senior researcher.

NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE: