20UNDER40 receives 304 chapter proposals

Edward Clapp’s 20UNDER40 anthology, a publication that will feature twenty chapters from emerging leaders in the arts under 40 years of age, has received an eye-opening 304 responses to its recent call for proposals from 343 authors on five continents. This is, frankly, a pretty astounding yield for a project with no history, financial reward, or major institutional backing. (Note: one of those submissions was prepared by yours truly in collaboration with Chicago-based management consultant and arts policy wonk Daniel Reid.) From Clapp’s email this afternoon:

Given the number of proposals before us, publication in 20UNDER40 can be equally compared to the acceptance rates of the world’s most elite academic and cultural institutions. [...] I feel it is important for all of us—whatever our age or experience—to pause and reflect for a moment on the surge of interest from young arts professionals. What does it mean, what does it tell us that such a massive response has ensued from a simple, grassroots call to voice geared towards young and emerging professionals at this juncture in the evolution of the arts? [...]

My answer: Clearly, the field has spoken. There are literally hundreds of eager young leaders ready to take the reigns of the arts for the purpose of redirecting the field in a positive new direction—one that greatly differs from the methods of policy and practice we know today. [...]

Young leaders have asked to be heard, and through this project and the residual conversations and actions that will emanate from its expanse, they will no longer be ignored.

Clapp has set up a Facebook site to discuss the implications in more detail.

Here’s what I think. The robust response to a project of this nature is reflective of a few things. One is certainly that Clapp and his co-conspirators deserve a great deal of credit for not only coming up with the idea, but also successfully generating serious viral momentum for the project. I had about a half-dozen different people, people with no official connection to the project, encourage me to make a submission through both email and Twitter – and frankly, I probably wouldn’t have done so without that extra push from people I knew. This momentum will carry through to the actual publication, helping to ensure that (hopefully) a great many folks will actually read the thing when it comes out.

Another factor that no doubt plays into this is that there are a lot of young’uns out there who are looking for a leg up. There’s a reason that colleges, grad schools, fellowship programs, grants, jobs, and other opportunities that bring with them exposure and/or the stamp of institutional approval are getting more and more competitive each year. It’s because the world is getting more connected, more people are becoming better educated and dreaming bigger dreams, and also because, let’s face it, the economy sucks. Since no opportunity is any longer a sure thing, and because the financial, convenience, and time barriers to submitting applications are becoming less and less, people try to cover their bases by submitting more applications. Which makes the application pool for each opportunity that much more competitive, and the cycle keeps feeding itself.

And so I agree with Edward–and Adam, and Lex–that our time has arrived. Generation Y (and, okay, the rump end of Gen X – you know I love you guys) is positively itching to take the wheel. But it’s not just because we’re impatient, though I’ll admit, there’s probably a bit of that. If I may generalize extravagantly for a moment, it’s also because this rat race that we’re all in has honed us, forced us to define ourselves by our strengths, encouraged us to seek our passions, and nurtured our entrepreneurial spirit in ways that set us apart from previous generations. I don’t mean to suggest that our elders didn’t face challenges themselves–but they faced very different ones. Challenges like ensuring basic rights for women and minorities in the workplace, like the threat of nuclear war hanging over their heads at all times, like having to type out all those damn fundraising envelopes themselves instead of just doing a mail merge. These challenges were serious, but in many ways their successful (or somewhat successful) resolution has paved the way for the challenges of our generation, which have to do with an intensity of competition amongst our ranks that has never been seen before in history. Population growth, new technologies, the opening up of opportunities to previously excluded groups and classes, and a comparatively secure and peaceful world have all dramatically increased the global talent pool and productive capacity. In order to run down a dream in that kind of environment, one needs to stand out, to find new ways of doing things, and to knock on as many doors as possible. And so this project was perfect for emerging leaders. It only asked us to do what we’ve been doing already, all this time–come up with new ways of thinking about and pursuing our work, and tell everybody we know about them.

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Around the horn: WordPress edition

The arts blogosphere (artosphere?) has been buzzing lately with the news of the demotion of the NEA’s erstwhile Director of Communications, Yosi Sergant, in response to Glenn Beck’s paranoid delusions about two conference calls that Yosi helped to organize to get artists involved in community service. Jeff Chang says this is the new shape of the culture war: going after movement progressives in the administration regardless of what they do. Piling on, Senator John Cornyn has written an open letter warning against what he calls the “politicization” of the NEA. Meanwhile, Americans for the Arts is fighting back, publishing a letter to the Washington Times from Bob Lynch responding to an editorial in that paper today. It’s worth noting that no one, other than the 75 call participants and Beck himself, has actually heard the entire audio recording of the call; that’s because the man driving this story, Patrick Courrielche (who just happens to be Yosi Sergant’s former boss), secretly recorded the conversation and went straight to Beck with it.

You can listen to some of the excerpts at this link (warning, you’ll have to sit through a lot of blathering first). Here’s the main one that they repeat several times:

This is just the beginning. This is just the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to bring this community together to speak with the government, [and] what that looks like legally. We’re still trying to figure out the laws of putting government websites on Facebook, and the use of Twitter. This is all being sorted out–we are participating in history as it’s being made. So bear with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely, and we can really work together in a sense to move the needle, and to get stuff done.

Taken out of context and accompanied by Beck’s and Courrielche’s innuendos (“they know exactly what they’re doing…I’m going to show you some artwork that maybe, coincidentally, came out two weeks after this phone call”), it all sounds a little creepy–until you realize that if they had anything more damning than this, they would have played it. I mean, come on: “learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely?” “what that looks like legally?” At least they’re interested in actually following the law, unlike a certain previous administration that just left office!

Anyway, for more commentary, you can read a rant from 99 Seats, a response from Chris Ashworth that I don’t really agree with but has a nice diagram to illustrate his point, and surely Leonard Jacobs will freak if I don’t include a link to the Clyde Fitch Report’s original analysis of the situation, which I neglected to mention the first time around. (Jacobs, to his credit, saw the right-wing culture war revival coming long before anyone else did as far as I can tell.)

Well, enough of that. Here’s some other stuff that’s been going on this week.

  • Speaking of Leonard Jacobs, he has a funny story about the reporter who contacted me last week.

    Funnily enough, the Fox reporter that contacted Moss also contacted me after Perez Hilton got into that stupid fight earlier this year with Will.I.Am and called him a “faggot.” I agreed to be a source for the reporter, but he wasn’t very happy with me. His first question was, and here I’m paraphrasing: “As a leader of the gay-rights movement, do you think Perez Hilton was justified in calling Will.I.Am a homophobic slur?” Well, I was just aghast. I said, “Um, I was unaware that Perez Hilton was a leader of the gay-rights movement.” At that point, said reporter reminded me of the whole Carrie Prejean nonsense — as anybody might need such a reminder — and pressed the point, that Hilton is a seminal figure in the gay cause. I replied to said reporter, “I think you want him to be a leader of the gay-rights movement, that that’s your agenda.” We volleyed a bit after that and it was quite clear the reporter didn’t get what he wanted. Shame.

  • ArtsJournal turned 10 years old over the weekend. What an amazing resource from Doug McLennan and company. One of the original ArtsJournal bloggers, Andrew Taylor, is announcing an innovative arts management class that seeks to bring the world to the students and the students to the world: it even has its own blog. Will be interesting to see how this one unfolds.
  • A few oldies but goodies that I’ve meant to link for the past few weeks but that have gotten lost in my browser window: 1) Perhaps portending a trend, the Sarasota Arts Council is refocusing its energies on lobbying efforts; 2) Art & Seek has a great story about the arts-led revitalization of tiny Ben Wheeler, Texas; and 3) Wired sees a revolution coming in “good enough” technology–slimmed-down, cheaper versions of things like cameras whose features we mostly don’t use anyway.
  • More evidence for recent college grad misery: their post-college earnings have not been keeping up with growth in tuition, by a long shot. (I would imagine that there has been a growth in financial aid at the same time, but is that enough?) And if you think that’s bad, African-Americans (taken as a group) have been in recession for nine years, according to this excellent article by Barbara Ehrenreich and Derek Muhammad. A particularly telling quote:

    Plenty of formerly middle- or working-class whites have followed similar paths to ruin: the layoff or reduced hours, the credit traps and ever-rising debts, the lost home. But one thing distinguishes hard-pressed African-Americans as a group: Thanks to a legacy of a discrimination in both hiring and lending, they’re less likely than whites to be cushioned against the blows by wealthy relatives or well-stocked savings accounts. In 2008, on the cusp of the recession, the typical African-American family had only a dime for every dollar of wealth possessed by the typical white family.

    If you are breaking even or slowly bleeding money, having a cushion, even a small one, makes all the difference in the world. It gives you flexibility, reduces your stress, enables you to pursue opportunities you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Scrapping for every dollar is a dehumanizing experience no matter who you are.

  • Did Bach discover serialism 200 years before Schoenberg? The musicologists don’t seem to think so, but I still hold that Beethoven was the originator of ragtime in Op. 111. Meanwhile, Pierre Ruhe reports on a composer using a different method to write wind band music: Facebook consensus.
  • Hewlett Foundation Philanthropy Program Officer Jacob Harold writes a column in defense of regranting. I used to be not so hot on regranting (it seemed to me like it just added middlemen into the process needlessly), but in the past year I’ve changed my mind somewhat, and Jacob makes some really compelling points in the article. Though I’m not sure I agree with him that giving $35 to the Gates Foundation is necessarily a smart idea.
  • This is interesting: Arts Council England is hiring 150 “assessors” to go out and review 10-14 events a year for two years, basically crowdsourcing their site visits. I think it’s a cool idea, but not without problems, as the Guardian explains.
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It’s a Brand New Blog

Today is a special day. If you’re reading this in your email or an application like Google Reader, consider this an invitation to escape, right now, the drab tyranny of the preview pane and visit Createquity in its glorious new incarnation at createquity.com. That’s right, I am now master of my own domain and have left Blogger behind for good.* The pretty designs you see around you are courtesy Evan Stein of VANPOP.com, whose “zero-gravity” consulting and design services can be had for a reasonable price. I have some more exciting stuff for Createquity in store shortly; in the meantime, poke around and do let me know if you see anything amiss. And once again, thank you for following along and helping to make Createquity what it is.

* If you happen to write a blog that links to mine, this would be your cue to update that link. Thank you bunches!

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Fox at it again

I get letters:

From: Miller, Josh
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2009 3:38 PM
To: Moss, Ian
Subject: RE: Media Inquiry
Importance: High

Mr. Moss,

Greetings – I hope this message finds you well.

I’m a reporter who is working on a story about two NEA-supported conference calls that purportedly asked artists to create art within major areas of President Obama’s administration, such as health care and the environment.

Have you participated in either one of these calls?

Please contact me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss this matter further. Thanks in advance.

Joshua Rhett Miller
Reporter/News Editor
FOXNews.com

I thought about writing him back, but instead I decided I’d just respond here. In case you’re joining us late, this story comes from a rather hysterical rant at Breitbart.com’s Big Hollywood blog authored by Patrick Courrielche, who seemed to think that an effort to incorporate artists into the President’s United We Serve initiative was some kind of Machiavellian plot to convince the art community to serve as pawns in Obama’s grand scheme to become dictator of America. Calling it “the making of a machine…initiated by the NEA, to corral artists to address specific issues” that “could potentially be wielded by the state to push policy,” Courrielche asks, “is [it] the place of the NEA to encourage the art community to address issues currently under legislative consideration?”

(As an aside, Courrielche seems positively shocked that the NEA is the “largest arts funder in the country.” Umm….duh? Anyway, the NEA reclaimed that title only recently from New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. That’s right, the city of New York until recently provided more arts agency funding for 8 million people than the USA did for its population of 300+ million–and yes, I double-checked the numbers.)

As I reported back in June, this project is the brainchild of the NEA’s Communications Director Yosi Sergant, who served as the liaison between artists and Obama during the campaign and commissioned Shepard Fairey’s iconic Hope poster in that capacity. I don’t know who Courrielche is, but according to his essay he used to be Yosi’s boss. Hmm, a little personal drama perhaps? Anyway, since Courrielche had his say, the story has been picked up all over the right-wing media and almost nowhere else–because it’s a complete non-story. The sinister initiative steamrolled on with a late August conference call featuring actor Kal Penn/Kalpen Modi, which I blogged about here (that’s apparently how our friend Josh found me). Although I wasn’t a participant in the first conference call, which is the one that Courrielche wrote about, I did listen in on the second.

So here’s the scandalous dirt on that talk, exposed for everyone to see. Modi, Americans for the Arts President Robert Lynch, and a representative from the Corporation for National and Community Service led off the call with a series of introductory remarks. Lynch showed himself to be nothing more than a dirty Massachusetts hippie by paying tribute to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who had just passed away that week. We were treated to highly charged partisan instructions like a reminder that any projects we upload should actually be uploaded twice – both on serve.gov and on serve.artsusa.org – so that community art endeavors would be visible within the larger pool of service projects and also collected in one place. Seriously, this is what the call was like. The closest it got to anything political was when a caller asked about the future of the Artist Corps initiative that was promised in Obama’s campaign platform (Modi responded that, while he “wanted to keep the call focused” on the United We Serve campaign, the Artist Corps concept is something that the administration still supports and wants to see happen).

If you don’t believe me, a quick look at the actual projects featured on the serve.artsusa.org website will convince you otherwise. Where are the “major areas of President Obama’s administration?” Is Alison Schwartz’s dancing to raise money for Dancers Responding to AIDS just a cover to convince Max Baucus to support a public option? Is Wynton Marsalis’s jazz education programming a complicated front for clean energy? Clearly, Cultural Crossroads’s four-acre arts farm in Louisiana must be some kind of Librul breeding colony.

So anyway, now Fox wants to write an article about it – yes, the same Fox who has had the hatchet out for the NEA for at least the last six weeks. A quick look at the question I was sent tells you where they get all of their material. The NEA “purportedly” wanted to commission art “within major areas of President Obama’s administration”? It would be kind of hilarious if it weren’t so disingenuous. As usual, Fox and facts don’t mix. For one thing, as far as I can tell, the NEA as an agency has no official role in the initiative whatsoever. Their logo is not on the serve.artsusa.org website; it is mentioned nowhere on the NEA’s website; and no one from the agency participated in the second conference call. Secondly, the push was not for artists to “create” work in line with Obama’s political agenda–the real push was to highlight work that artists are already doing that fits in with the overall United We Serve initiative. Finally, the push didn’t come from Obama–it came from artists: Sergant, and earlier, the group of 60 arts community activists who met with the administration in May and asked to get more involved. If there is a political agenda, it is perhaps that in involving artists explicitly in an initiative of this magnitude, maybe it will help build the arts’ public profile and help convince Congress to move this country’s level of federal arts support a notch upward from “laughably miniscule” to “embarrassingly paltry.” That’s all there is to it. Well, unless you believe that getting out of the house and helping people who are less fortunate than you is a partisan political act. Sadly, this conservative movement seems to believe that caring about anyone who isn’t yourself or directly related to you is something to condemn.

[UPDATE: And just like that, Yosi Sergant gets thrown under the bus. Way to give Glenn Beck more power than he deserves. Arlene Goldbard has more.]

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Around the horn: Laboring on Labor Day edition

  • WOW, that was fast. Mere days after announcing a $20 million cut in funding that impinged on previously made commitments and, in some cases, money that had already been spent, the government of British Columbia, Canada not only restored the funding that had been cut but threw another $12 million on top for good measure. The Vancouver Sun reports that the government faced a “furious public reaction” to the cuts, motivating the restoration. Imagine if we had that kind of clout here! (By the way, in case you’re wondering, the total provincial government support for arts groups in British Columbia, population 4.4 million, is about the same as the federal government support for arts groups in the United States, population 307 million.) [Update: sorry, I was reading the figures for all nonprofits getting money from the gambling fund, not just arts groups. And as Aaron Talbot points out in the comments, it looks like there have been some further developments since the Vancouver Sun story that have BC arts funding still very much in the woods.]
  • Scott Walters has an Open Letter to Rocco Landesman explaining his reaction to Landesman’s views on geodiversity in more detail.
  • It’s tough times for independent music and bookstores, but the ones that have survived are “playing up their roles as community centers that serve as unique cultural spaces rather than just a place to buy a quick CD or magazine,” according to The Wrap.
  • A year and a half after I took the plunge and tentatively wrote out my intuitive objections to my first economics class for what has become one of the most popular Createquity posts ever (I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the Calvin and Hobbes toon that accompanies the piece…hey, whatever works), I have to admit that I feel a certain grim satisfaction that mainstream economics finds itself so deeply under attack from more mainstream corners these days. The latest takedown comes from no less than Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in a gargantuan op-ed for New York Times Magazine. Krugman concludes,
    So here’s what I think economists have to do. First, they have to face up to the inconvenient reality that financial markets fall far short of perfection, that they are subject to extraordinary delusions and the madness of crowds. Second, they have to admit — and this will be very hard for the people who giggled and whispered over Keynes — that Keynesian economics remains the best framework we have for making sense of recessions and depressions. Third, they’ll have to do their best to incorporate the realities of finance into macroeconomics.

    Meanwhile, I find myself drawn more and more to the cornucopia of radically alternative ways of conceptualizing markets. In the Createquity post linked above, I suggested that

    There is an alternative way of looking at the above, which is that there is no such thing as something that’s not a free market. After all, the government systems we do have in place for human services, infrastructure, price regulation, and so on, are essentially the result of consumer action. They voted people into office to institute these reforms, a power no consumer had on his or her own. One could argue that these policies are the result of the “market” deciding, in aggregate, that prohibitions against certain industries might be a good thing. That environmental protection was worth setting limits on what large companies could put into the air or water. This view requires a broader conception of market activity that goes beyond merely buying and selling. It essentially says that whatever happens is part of the larger organism of humanity, that the actions companies and consumers take to affect the market are as much a symptom of the market as a driver of it. It says that markets will always be free so long as human beings are creating and living them.

    It seems the author of The Origin of Wealth, Eric Beinhocker, is way ahead of me on this (h/t Creative Class Exchange). Beinhocker and colleagues have defined a field called complexity economics that merges micro and macro into one discipline and takes its cues from biology rather than physics. There’s much more to read and contemplate, but so far color me intrigued.

  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on a new collaboration that seeks to standardize social impact measurements, the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) initiative. It’s a collaboration between the Rockefeller Foundation, B Lab, Deloitte, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and others.
  • Gene Takagi of Nonprofit Law Blog tries to read Sean Stannard-Stockton’s mind in determining why Tactical Philanthropy Advisors has been formed as a for-profit B Corporation (a kind of cousin to the L3c) rather than as a nonprofit. Phil Cubeta thinks he has a simpler answer. Meanwhile, B Lab (originators of the B Corporation concept) is urging the Obama administration to give tax benefits to their constituency, and the NonProfit Times reports on a war of words developing between L3C founders and the IRS.
  • Thinking about forming a nonprofit yourself? Be advised that the IRS is raising its rates for new applications effective January. Lest you think that this is aimed at stemming the tide of new nonprofit formations, however, fear/hope not: the IRS is in the process of developing a web-based “Cyber Assistant” to make applications easier for applicant and agency alike. Once it’s introduced, fees will drop up to 76% for those who use the new system.
  • Before we get on the “too many [small] nonprofits” horse again, though, let’s take a moment to consider Albert Ruesga’s admonition that
    There’s a tendency in nonprofit work to be a little too uncritical of the concepts we import from the business world. We sometimes get fetishistic about matters of “scale” and “replicability.” But there’s a k
    ind of nonprofit beauty that doesn’t scale well. And there are people whose extraordinary vision and passion we’ll never be able to replicate.

    You can read a seemingly endless (but great) interview with Ruesga, who is President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Community Foundation, here.

  • A couple of months ago, I was asked to speak on a panel for the Arts & Business Council of New York in connection with an internship program that ABC/NY runs for college students. At one point during the discussion, I gave a bearish assessment of the job prospects faced by new graduates that apparently took some attendees by surprise. But sure enough, the statistics are out, and recent college graduates are getting absolutely killed by this recession. 31% uninsured. One-third living with their parents. 24% don’t make enough to pay their monthly bills. Ugly, ugly numbers. No wonder more and more of them are turning to post-graduate internships.
  • Very cool: the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, based in England, has gone back and digitized a report the foundation published in 1959. Mark Robinson has the details.
  • Is this the future of product development?
  • If you don’t follow Lisa Hoang on Twitter (@lisa_hoang), you are seriously missing out. Lisa trolls for arts stories all over the web and comes up with lots of stuff that even ArtsJournal misses. Here are two of her recent finds: Uganda is mapping its cultural industries with the help of UNESCO and Chicago is designating a new creative industries district.
  • Mmm….deep fried butter.
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New Blogs!

I needn’t have cut the list short to three last time – there’s a lot of great new (or new to me) stuff out there. Here’s a sampling for you:

blog by arwen
Arwen Lowbridge used to be the Managing Director at Fractured Atlas and now is an independent consultant and performing artist. In addition to her musings about arts management on her new blog, you can read some of her old postings at the Fractured Atlas blog here.

Collective Arts Think Tank
Only one post so far, but man is it a doozy. A collaboration between The Chocolate Factory, Dance Theater Workshop, The Field, The Lost Notebook, Performance Space 122, and thinaar, CATT seeks to provide definition to big-picture conversations already happening among these arts practitioners. Its epic “First Letter to the Field” about which I wrote on Monday, is full of fascinating thoughts on the state of the arts.

Growthology
An interesting blog about the economics of entrepreneurship, sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation. That might seem a little outside of this blog’s purview at first, but think about it this way: most arts organizations double as small businesses. If we can understand the patterns, behavior, and value of small businesses, we’ll understand a lot more about the arts.

NewJerseyartsblog
While doing research for my state arts council update over the weekend, I ran across several state- or region-specific blogs associated with arts advocacy organizations or the councils themselves. This is one of the better/more frequently updated ones. Hosted by Artpride NJ, NewJerseyartsblog sprinkles original content like a “Feeling the Pinch?” series in with the usual announcements and press releases.

Wild Caught Stories
A project of the Center for the Study of Arts and Community, Wild Caught Stories is an unusual group blog concept that involves a sequential response to questions by six authors, all noted creative community building professionals. The question under consideration for the current volume is “What is your gift?”

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Meet me at Barry's

I’m honored and delighted to be participating this month and next in Barry Hessenius’s six-week group blogging exercise on the future of the National Endowment for the Arts and federal cultural policy, billed as “likely the longest scheduled blog discussion ever attempted in our field.” This truly gargantuan enterprise, which officially launches on September 15, will involve the voices of some 40+ “panelists” from past NEA administrations, the funder community, arts service organizations, academia, the private sector, artists, and “emerging leaders” (under which umbrella you’ll find little ol’ me, in Week 4). Each of us will write responses to a particular series of questions for our assigned week, and continue to respond to our fellow panelists’ remarks throughout the week. I expect to pop in occasionally to add to the discussion during the other weeks as well. The list of participants is truly a who’s who of national arts leaders (many of them overlapping with Barry’s just-released ranking of the top leaders in the nonprofit arts sector), and it’s a truly exciting to have the opportunity to engage with them on such a substantive level. But that’s not the most exciting part — the most exciting part is that, since this is after all a blog panel, you will have the same opportunity as me to engage with the field’s leaders and help shape the debate. Barry reports that his blog has 10,000 subscribers, and I’m told that the new leadership at the NEA will be following along closely – so come, make the most of this chance to make your voice heard. Bookmark http://www.westaf.org/blog or add Barry’s Blog to your RSS reader to catch the action.

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Around the horn: Lion of the Senate edition

  • Well, as we learned over the weekend, a lot of state arts councils are in bad shape. Now we learn via the Clyde Fitch Report that NYS Arts is organizing pre-emptive lobbying for the New York State Council on the Arts (currently the best-funded state arts agency in the country) in anticipation of further cuts in FY10. Good for them for being on the ball. Miami-Dade County is struggling to internalize the prospect of $11 million in cuts to the arts infrastructure there. Unfortunately, it’s too late for British Columbia, whose arts organizations just had some $20 million in grants rescinded, in some cases after they’d already paid the bills with them.
  • Meanwhile, Europe proves once again that things are just different over there: Siemens pledges to keep corporate giving (including much arts sponsorship) at $72 million despite cutting 17,000 jobs last year and seeing a 28% decline in orders.
  • A number of observers predicted that once the recession got bad, we’d start seeing a lot of mergers in the nonprofit sector. Well, apparently it’s not happening. As attractive as mergers can sound on paper (and in many cases they do seem to make a lot of sense), the all too frequent reality seems to be one of political landmines, substantial upfront costs, and entrenched resistance.
  • Rocco Landesman is suddenly everywhere! View new profiles with the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.
  • So here’s something awesome: a bunch of people from the Field, Chocolate Factory, and other organizations have gotten together for a new blog called Collective Arts Think Tank. Their first essay, “Letter to the Field: What’s Working, Not Working, Recommendations” is excellent and thought-provoking. One of my favorite ideas is this one:
    There is a common refrain among artists and arts administrators: “we have to learn to do more with less.” Meaning, when resources get tight, we still need to produce at least the same amount of work as when there was more money available, if not more.

    We advocate the opposite philosophy: do less with more. Meaning, make work that is fully realized, fully-resourced, and created in an appropriate amount of time.

    This also speaks to a problem of supply and demand. If there are hundreds of small theaters and ensembles in New York, and all of them are half-full, then we are overproducing, substituting quantity for quality. Doing less with more may also mean that venues produce fewer shows, artists produce fewer works, and audiences remain hungry longer. We think that’s a good thing.

    Don’t miss the 30-something comments as well.

  • Our friend Sean Stannard-Stockton has big news: he’s taken all of the work he’s done over the past three years to help build the online philanthropic community and leveraged it into a new company, Tactical Philanthropy Advisors. Meanwhile, Sean hasn’t let up on the blogging: since last week’s Around the Horn, there’s now a three-part post on the definition of tactical philanthropy as distinct from strategic philanthropy (here, here, and here). Sean also clued me in to this cool article about the origins of Kickstarter, the arts microphilanthropy platform that’s rapidly gaining in popularity.
  • Speaking of friends, my blog buddy Tony Wang and I are going to be engaging in a kind of co-blogging exercise over the next month or so on the subject of value creation across sectors. He has a post up today responding to my recent series on the meaning and origin of value, and you can expect a continuation of the conversation on my side next week.
  • Some Generation Y muscle-flexing for you: congratulations to 26-year-old Amelia Lester, the new managing editor of the New Yorker. By the way, Seth Godin says, the way we hire people is all wrong – in ways that just happen to mirror observations made by professors of mine this spring. Seth advocates for the five-minute interview, which, while it makes a lot of sense from the business’s perspective, would seem to be a bit hellish for applicants.
  • Gene Takagi has lots of resources on media organizations and the nonprofit option.
  • A trend I expect we’ll see more of: Wikipedia is now assigning different levels of trust to contributors and color-coding edits to articles on the basis of who makes them.
  • Um, am I the only one who had no idea Americans for the Arts was running public service TV ads? Check them out here. The breakfast cereal one made me cringe a little, but the museum piece is actually pretty funny.
  • And I thought I had seen everything: now there’s a dating site for budding philanthropists. Way to put the passion in compassion! I guess this gives a whole new meaning to embedded giving.
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State Arts Funding Update

Any way you slice it, it’s been a rough year for state arts councils. According to the National Assembly of State Arts Associations (NASAA), states have reduced their funding for arts agencies an average of 7% (14% if you take out Minnesota, which recently enacted a kickass new arts tax that tripled the money available). Many, if not most, states are facing tremendous budget deficits, and it seems you can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a news story about how South Dakota or Michigan or Pennsylvania or wherever is threatening to cut arts funding drastically or zero it out entirely. So we fret and worry or get all up in arms, and but all too often the story disappears and we rarely find out what happened in the end. So as a service to Createquity readers, I’m going to try to aggregate recent stories about state arts funding battles here in one place, so you can be aware of what’s going on in your state and let your friends in other states know what actions they can take to help. Hopefully, this will help us become more informed as a community and empower us to take action collectively to protect state arts funding across the country, instead of fighting a myriad of isolated battles.

I’ve tried to gather the most current information in each of these cases, but it’s quite possible that I’ve missed something. If you can help make the list more complete or up-to-date, please share in the comments.

BATTLES STILL BEING WAGED

CONNECTICUT
Governor Jodi Rell’s reorganization would move Connecticut’s Commission on Culture and Tourism under the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development. Cuts of more than 50% have also been recommended for the Commission under the General Assembly’s proposed budget, which as far as I can tell would not merge the agency with Economic and Community Development. Finally, the Governor is pushing to eliminate line items for arts organizations in the state budget, affecting a number of larger institutions in the state. The Arts Council of Greater New Haven is on top of the developments here.

MICHIGAN
Another instance of potential elimination of a state arts council through reorganization comes, surprisingly, from a Democrat, Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan. In fact, Republican lawmaker Cameron Brown (who just happens to be running for Secretary of State next year) last week introduced a resolution to block Granholm’s executive order dissolving the Department of History, Arts and Libraries and moving its functions to other departments. (The rather unfortunately-named Michigan Council on Arts and Cultural Affairs, or MCACA, would become part of the Michigan Strategic Fund.) Even if Brown’s resolution succeeds, however, Senate resolutions put forward this year would still abolish the Department and put its functions under the Secretary of State’s office (a solution Granholm does not support either). This after MCACA had its current year’s budget slashed 3.74% unilaterally as part of another executive order in May. ArtServe Michigan has more.

PENNSYLVANIA

Perhaps the most dramatic story this year has been that of Pennsylvania, where in some versions of the state budget under consideration the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts’s $14 million budget would be eliminated. The ripple effect is already taking a toll on Philadelphia, which has announced that it may have to close its own cultural affairs office (just re-opened last year) if other state funding doesn’t come through, and where the possible elimination of Pennsylvania’s tax credit has forced M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie to Canada. The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has done a great job organizing the resistance, and you can follow the action on Twitter with the hashtags #savePAarts and #PAbudget.

MAJOR CUTS ALREADY IN PLACE

ARIZONA
The Arizona Commission on the Arts saw its state appropriation reduced 54%, necessitating an overall budget cut of approximately 42%.

COLORADO
After initially making noises about cutting the Colorado Council for the Arts’s funding in half, Democratic Governor Bill Ritter settled for a 25% decrease for next year. The Council will receive about $300,000 less from the state than in the current year.

FLORIDA
The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs will receive $2.8 million in Fiscal Year 2010, less than half of last year’s appropriation and a shocking 94% decline from three years ago. Florida is another state whose lawmakers threatened to zero out arts funding, and only the promise of $1 million in NEA money (which Florida would not have been eligible to receive without a state arts council) saved the division from extinction. Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker has also introduced a bill to repeal Florida’s law mandating that 0.5% of construction costs go to public art; this bill did not come to a vote.

ILLINOIS
Things were looking pretty good in Barack Obama’s home state when Governor Quinn originally proposed a flat funding level at $15.3 million – but by the time the Legislature was done with the Illinois Arts Council, that level had been cut 51% to $7.8 million. The executive director of the IAC says things don’t look much better for next year either.

INDIANA
The Indiana Arts Commission’s funding was cut by $1 million (20%), cuts that apparently blindsided the agency and forced an emergency session to redo the FY 2010 budget. There has also been a 5% holdback mandated for the current year’s funds.

LOUISIANA
I can’t figure out what the hell is going on in Louisiana. The back story is that Governor Jindal (remember him from this year’s State of the Union response?) decided to cut a full 83% from Louisiana’s Decentralized Arts Fund and 31% from its Statewide Arts Grants. A firestorm of protest ensued, and the state’s Legislature responded by reinstating the arts funding at 100% of prior levels. However, Jindal threatened to veto the reinstatement, and “political maneuvering has delayed the review of this portion of the budget until it’s too late for the Legislature to override the veto without calling a special session.” This was all as of mid-May, and unfortunately, I can’t find any information about what happened next (the website for the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts, the state’s arts advocacy organization, is disappointingly bereft of information on the conflict and the latest newsletter is more than a year old; the Facebook page is in similar shape). But knowing Jindal, I think it’s reasonably safe to assume that the vetoes went through.

MARYLAND
The Maryland State Arts Council sustained an 18% cut for FY10 and also lost 14% of its original FY09 appropriation. And just this month, Governor O’Malley cut another $2 million out of a newly established arts fund that gets its money from a tax on instant bingo machines. Cumulatively, the cuts come to about 30%.

MASSACHUSETTS
The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s funding has been reduced by 23.4% for next year, to $9.7 million. Believe it or not, this actually could have been a lot worse – the State Senate Ways & Means Committee initially recommended a cut of 57%.

MISSOURI
The Missouri Arts Council actually got $5.6 million withheld out of the current year’s budget as the state sought to close a shortfall in February, an amount exceeding a third of the Council’s state appropriation. For next year, it looks like MAC will face about a 10% reduction (not sure if that’s a reduction based on the original FY09 budget or the revised one).

NEW HAMPSHIRE
The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts will have its state appropriation cut 31.7% in FY 2010, precipitating an overall budget cut of about $320,000 from what was already one of the smaller state grantmaking agencies out there.

NEW JERSEY
The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, one of the best-funded agencies in the country, saw its appropriation slashed 25% to $14.4 million. Governor Corzine actually had to circumvent a law to do so, as New Jersey’s arts council is funded by a dedicated hotel-motel occupancy tax that is supposed to self-destruct if the appropriation falls below $16 million. The idea was that this would be a “poison pill” designed to create a strong incentive for keeping arts funding high. I haven’t been able to find confirmation of whether the tax has, in fact, been abolished as a result of the deep cuts.

OHIO
The Ohio Arts Council’s budget was cut an astounding 47% for FY10-11, to $13.2 million for the two years. The state had already taken back $3.62 million from its original FY08-09 appropriation.

SOUTH CAROLINA
The South Carolina Arts Commission’s troubles started early: by this March, the agency had sustained no fewer than three cuts to its original FY09 appropriation totaling a cumulative 25.9%. The SCAC has been getting an additional $585,000 in “one-time” funding for each of the past three years, and it is not confident about a renewal in FY10.

WASHINGTON
The Washington Arts Commission lost 26% of its state funding for FY2010. It could have been worse: a bill introduced by a Republican lawmaker in February would have eliminated the Commission’s Art in Public Places program; it seems, however, that the bill did not go anywhere.

BREATHING A SIGH OF RELIEF

SOUTH DAKOTA
South Dakota’s state arts council looked like it was going to get axed earlier in the year by Governor Mike Rounds, but an outpouring of advocacy efforts led to a 0.5% increase in the state tourism tax that allowed (among other things) the arts funding to be reinstated.

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Wanna have a phone chat with Kal Penn?

Well, you can, if you sign up to participate in Americans for the Arts’s conference call with Penn (who now goes by his birth name, Kalpen Modi) on the subject of President Obama’s United We Serve initiative. The call is tomorrow, Thursday, August 27 at 3pm Eastern time. Americans for the Arts has partnered with the NEA and the Obama administration to bring you serve.artsusa.org, where you can not only register for the call but also upload your service-oriented arts project to serve.gov, find volunteers for your project and opportunities to volunteer yourself, and sign a petition supporting the creation of a national Artist Corps.

FYI, though Modi is best known for his role as a pot-smoking dunderhead in the Harold and Kumar movies, he is a graduate of UCLA, has taught two courses in Asian American and media studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a certificate from Stanford in international security. Underestimate him at your peril.

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