In the recently released federal budget for fiscal year 2015, President Obama proposes a meager increase in allocations for the arts compared to last year. Federally-backed museums will enjoy the bulk of that increase, while funding for NEA and NEH is essentially unchanged after factoring in inflation. Speaking of those agencies, President Obama also announced his plan to appoint William “Bro” Adams as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Adams is currently President of Colby College; he is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Maine Film Center and the Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation.
Democratic Congressmen have introduced a revised version of a droit de suite bill that would require payment of royalties to the creators of visual art when it is resold at public auction. The bill, American Royalties Too (ART), is less generous than its stalled predecessor – reducing the rate from 7% to 5% and adding an overall cap of $35,000 – but may gain momentum from a December report from the Copyright Office supporting resale royalties. California’s royalties bill, recently declared unconstitutional in federal court, may offer useful lessons for how not to implement the policy.
STATE AND LOCAL
Tom Finkelpearl, head of the Queens Museum and former director of NYC’s Percent for Art program, will be the city’s next cultural-affairs commissioner. Among his innovations at Queens, Finkelpearl hired a community organizer to build ties between the museum and the borough. Mayor de Blasio used the announcement to wax lyrical about the importance of access and the power of the arts to strengthen neighborhoods; we’ll get a sense of how this translates into arts policy when his capital budget is released in a few weeks.
The city of Atlanta has proposed an ordinance that would make it much more difficult to display public art on private property- or “areas of private property which are visible from the public right of way or other public spaces.”
And how’s this for a nonprofit/for-profit smackdown? Maryland’s General Assembly, eager to keep production of Netflix’s political drama House of Cards in the state, tried to swipe $2.5 million from the state’s arts fund to secure additional tax credits for filming. Lawmakers argued the decision came down to simple economics, claiming the show “contributed $250 million to the economy and 6,000 jobs during the past two seasons.” (Too bad the research on the economic impact of tax incentives for film and TV suggests those benefits are less attractive than they seem.) In the end, the legislators held firm – or maybe they just didn’t have their act together – and now, we’re all waiting to see whether a change of venue is in the cards for House of Cards.
(Update: According to an email newsletter from Americans for the Arts, the $2.5 million did end up getting transferred from the arts fund after all. “Governor O’Malley originally allotted $7 million in his budget proposal, which then grew to $11 million. The amount proved to not be enough….To raise more money, the General Assembly authorized applying the Special Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Arts, a fund of $2.5 million on reserve for supporting local arts organizations, toward film incentives. The Senate pushed for the amount to be raised to $18.5 million and requested $3 million from the general fund, which the House rejected. The final agreement stood at $15 million.”)
Lots of news from Britain this time around: Maria Miller, the UK Culture Secretary whom some accused of not being especially interested in culture, has resigned amid a scandal over her expenses. She will be replaced by Sajid Javid, the current Treasury Financial Secretary. As the EU eases copyright law to make it easier to transfer purchased music from one of your personal devices to another, most countries are simultaneously levying a tax on device manufacturers; the money would go to a fund to support young musicians. In Britain, the potential tax is being fought strenuously by manufacturers. Meanwhile, the UK has closed a tax loophole on domestic music, book, and app purchases; the move could raise as much as half a billion dollars, which retailers may pass on to consumers. In more local news, the Mayor of London has released a revised cultural strategy, which includes support for smaller arts organizations and your friendly neighborhood busker.
Italy has pledged to spend €135 million to restore 46 heritage sites in the southern portion of the country, following an earlier distribution of €222 million last September. On the other side of the Adriatic in Athens, the Greeks are not so lucky: their cash-poor government is thinking about selling off public landmarks near the Acropolis to private investors. Protestors have been staging angry demonstrations to tell the pols to leave their built heritage alone.
Good news for Dubai’s 137 million metro riders: now they can add a little culture to their wait. Thanks to a new public art project launched by the Prime Minister of UAE, four metro stations throughout the city will be transformed into museums.
And the government of South Korea is digging a little deeper into cultural exchange through a new project set to introduce Korean culture into emerging markets around the world. The NEXT Project to Dispatch International Cultural Exchange Experts by Region sends staff abroad as both representatives and students of the host cultures and are responsible for managing each regional Culture Centre.
JUST ABOUT EVERYWHERE
Finally, the entire Anglophone world suddenly seems to be slashing taxes on live performance. New York State passed a theater tax credit to induce Broadway producers to prepare for touring shows upstate. (Producers and tour operators had lobbied for the incentives, which are already offered in states like Illinois, Louisiana, and Rhode Island.) Within days, Senator Charles Schumer proposed a more ambitious national tax rebate of up to $15 million per production – benefits already extended to film and TV. Both initiatives appear to be driven by the Broadway League. Meanwhile, the UK opened a consultation period for its own plan to provide generous credits for live performing arts; the exact policy objectives of the subsidy remain unclear. This last plan opens out into the world: as long as at least a quarter of the expenditures are in Europe, costs may be incurred in any country.