Arts Watch Update
*This section of Arts Watch updates readers on specific news items that have appeared in recent editions.
Michigan: House Approves Bill to Aid Art Museum
The Detroit News, 12/1/10
"The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) could soon be in position to ask taxpayers for more money under a bill passed by the Michigan House. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, though, will not be getting help from Lansing…The DIA bill was approved by a 67–36 vote in the lame duck session and would allow counties to form authorities that could ask voters for property taxes to fund arts institutes. The Senate has approved the bill so it should soon be headed to Gov. Jennifer Granholm for her signature. A substitute bill that would have included similar taxing authority for the cash-strapped Detroit Symphony Orchestra was withdrawn before it was brought to the floor."
Utah: Principals Say Arts Education Program Helps State Schools
The Salt Lake Tribune, 12/1/10
"Educators say a state-funded arts learning program is making a difference in Utah schools, according to a recent survey. The company surveyed participating principals on their perceptions of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, which is now in about 50 Utah schools. The program consists of some 50 arts specialists who instruct alongside classroom teachers and integrate art with other subjects…The program could disappear after this school year unless it gets more state funding. Program advocates are asking lawmakers for another $4 million to keep it going during the next school year, but that could be a battle because of the many state programs now vying for cash."
Ohio: Cleveland Orchestra Presents More Optimistic Annual Report
Philanthropy News Digest, 12/4/10
"According to figures made public in its most recent annual report, the Cleveland Orchestra has started to recover from the economic hit it suffered in 2009, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The orchestra reported a deficit of $2.3 million for the 2010 fiscal year, slightly more than the $2 million budget shortfall it recorded in 2009. The value of its endowment, in contrast, recovered nicely, ending the fiscal year at $106.6 million, up from $97.2 million in 2009. Giving by corporations and foundations also rose, from $3.8 million to $4.7 million."
Georgia: State Music Hall of Fame Looking for New Home
The Albany Herald, 12/3/10
"The heads of two of Albany’s cultural institutions are meeting with officials to determine whether it would be feasible to pitch the city as a possible home for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. With music industry notables such as Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Harry James, and now Luke Bryan from the metro Albany area, some believe Southwest Georgia would be a fitting home for the hall…With the state pulling much of its funding, and visitation down due to a sluggish economy, both the Georgia Music and Sports halls are considering a move out of Macon and have put a request for proposals out to find interested cities."
District of Columbia: Smithsonian Removes Video Due to Objections
Associated Press, 12/2/10
"The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery quickly removed a video [November 30] that was part of an exhibit after complaints from a Catholic group that the images were sacrilegious. Catholic League President Bill Donohue said the video by artist David Wojnarowicz depicting ants crawling on a crucifix was ‘hate speech’ and designed to insult Christians…Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said the museum is responsive to its public audience but will stand behind the overall exhibit. The piece in question was on a video kiosk, and visitors had to call it up to view it. It was not a dominant part of the exhibit.”
Michigan: Boosters Keep Band Marching
Ferndale Patch, 12/7/10
"Ferndale High School's recent victory at the marching band state finals is evidence of the district's commitment to music education…What spectators at the event may not have known is that they were not only watching the kids perform an award-winning set, but they also were watching Ferndale Arts Boosters (FAB) dollars at work. Items from sharp uniforms to shiny instruments to the refurbished semitrailer bearing the Golden Eagles emblem were all paid for, in part or in full, by the all-volunteer FAB…The FAB began as an unofficial band and orchestra booster club, registering as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization in 2003. The founding board hit the ground running, launching a nearly $200,000 capital campaign that year."
Texas: New Law Helps Bring Music Back to Schools
The Dallas Morning News, 12/6/10
"The hallways at Austin Middle School were quieter just a year ago. The school's fine arts program was understaffed, and few instruments were available…But today, music can be heard in hallways, and gradually, throughout the district. Irving officials are trying to reverse a history of little resources. It has spent about $450,000 in bond funds for 505 new instruments and equipment for its schools…A new law that went into effect this school year requires middle school students to take at least one fine arts course. Irving's targeted areas for improvement are band, choir, and orchestra programs. Districtwide, band participation grew 16 percent to 2,312 students; choir by 18 percent to 1,331 students; and orchestra by 23 percent to 1,050 students, according to school district records."
Tennessee: U.S. Department of Education Grant Funds New Program
Knoxville News Sentinel, 11/16/10
"Arts360 integrates visual arts, drama, creative writing, dance, and music into other core subjects like science, math, reading, and writing. It infuses arts into an entire school. Former teacher and Arts360 District Coordinator Brandi Self says teachers look to 'find the natural connections between the arts and other subjects so you can better enhance instruction…' The four-year program is funded through a Tennessee Arts Commission grant. The state agency received the $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education."
New Mexico: State Senator Objects to Sundance Project
"Last year, with actor Robert Redford by his side, Gov. Bill Richardson announced a partnership between the state of New Mexico and Redford's Sundance Institute to train Hispanics and Native Americans for jobs in the film industry. The partnership is set to be headquartered at a historic ranch the state purchased in 2008 for $2.5 million north of Española. Now, the governor is spending $1.75 million of federal stimulus funds to renovate the property for the Sundance project…But State Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), isn't sure now is the time to spend scarce funds on such a project. 'We certainly appreciate the film industry here, but the bottom line is how much can we afford to subsidize it?' he said."
New Jersey: Mayor Offers to Fund Music Program
The Record, 12/7/10
"Lyndhurst Township will help fund a joint township-school district band and music program to keep the cash-strapped program afloat. Township Commissioners will hold a public hearing next week on a capital ordinance to appropriate $100,000 from its surplus fund. The year-round program, which teaches music to youngsters at the elementary age level, had fallen on hard times because of cuts in the school budget. 'We didn't really want to see the program eliminated,' Mayor Richard DiLascio said…DiLascio said the program is too important to let slip away and that funds will be used to buy instruments, stands, and equipment. 'We want the public to recognize that performance is an integral part of education overall.'"
Florida: Palm Coast Council Members Differ Over Arts Funding
The Daytona Beach News-Journal, 12/4/10
"The Palm Coast City Council often cites the city's cultural richness, but the city's contribution to that wealth will likely be less this year. [Next week,] the council will decide whether to distribute $20,000 to 11 organizations requesting funds to help put on programs. The groups had requested a total of $35,500, so on
ly one group received all it requested. Last year, city officials budgeted $40,000 for the groups. Council Member Bill Lewis said the city of about 74,000 could do better…'I think we should do a little more for these organizations than just give them lip service,' Lewis said. Lewis suggested increasing the amount for the groups, but Councilman Holsey Moorman said the budget season was past."
Massachusetts: Graduate Class Examines Worcester's Creative Economy
Telegram & Gazette, 12/5/10
"If 25 students work for 14 weeks with the aim of providing direction to the city of Worcester in the area of improving its creative economy, what will happen? The answer won’t be available until the end of the spring semester, when a new graduate-level course at Clark University, 'Analyzing Worcester’s Creative Economy,' concludes. The course, which will examine the part of Worcester’s economy that focuses on the production and distribution of cultural goods, services and intellectual property, is a joint venture of the Graduate School of Management, and the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise at Clark. 'We hope to have a solid report, a blueprint for potential changes that we can give to the city,' said course instructor Ted Buswick…adding that this is just the first step in a larger process."
Rhode Island: Television Show Production Worth $30 Million to State
The Providence Journal, 12/4/10
"The cast and crew of the new ABC series Body of Proof, gushed at the State House about their experiences filming in Rhode Island for the last five months…Stars Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan joined Film and TV Office executive director Steven Feinberg and elected officials in celebrating the near completion of filming the premiere season’s 13 episodes. 'Having produced ten feature films and two hundred hours of television all over the United States and out of the country, I can tell you this has been my best experience to date,' said executive producer Matt Gross. 'The state supports the needs of production like no other I have ever been to.'"
North Carolina: Duke Energy Foundation Supports Local Arts Groups
The Charlotte Observer, 12/5/10
"When arts groups have a moment to think beyond merely surviving the recession, their attention may turn to young people. Without the culture lovers of the future, a dead end lies ahead. The question is: How can you reach out to young people when you're struggling to survive? For the Charlotte Symphony and Opera Carolina, the answer is coming from the Duke Energy Foundation. The foundation is giving the groups a total of $75,000 to help win over young people to music and opera."
Florida: Foundation Gives $3.8 Million to South Florida Organizations
Philanthropy News Digest, 12/4/10
"The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced the winners of the 2010 Knights Arts Challenge Miami, a community-wide competition designed to bring South Florida together through the arts. Now in its third year, the contest awarded $3.8 million to 27 projects. Winners include Miami-Dade County Public Schools, which will receive $1 million to expose 130,000 Miami-Dade students to South Florida's cultural riches through annual field trips in every grade; and, the University of Miami, which was awarded $500,000 to create a community engagement program featuring the Henry Mancini Institute's multi-genre orchestra."
Report: Education Funders Favor Advocacy
Philanthropy Journal, 12/3/10
"Increasingly, foundations that fund education are awarding grants to support public-policy efforts, including advocacy, a new study says. In 2010, seven in 10 education funders supported policy efforts, up from six in 10 a year ago, says the survey released by Grantmakers for Education. And among those stepping into policy funding, 72 percent funded advocacy, a field previously considered as high-risk among grantmakers because of federal rules and regulations around funding advocacy and lobbying efforts. 'We have a clearer understanding of what's legally possible to change public policy, and frankly, many of us have a lot less patience with the status quo in education reform,' Dori Jacobson, senior vice president of the Rodel Foundation in Delaware, said in a statement."
Last week at a concert, I experienced former Joy Division bassist Peter Hook rock out his rendition of the band's first album, Unknown Pleasures. In the venue, I was engulfed by a wave of crowd-induced glowing light, but nary a raised lighter, swaying with the rhythm, was to be found. Instead, the artificial phosphorescence of cell phone light illuminated scores of busy fingers, filming, texting, tweeting away, while the band played on. And then a thought occurred to me: Is the unprecedented rate of rapidly advancing technology and information actually hindering—not enhancing—our enjoyment of and appreciation for the arts?
A few days after the concert, I found my concerns were reflected by columnist Geoff Pevere of the Toronto Star, who is writing a series of articles that examine this phenomenon. Pevere highlights work by Dr. Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA, who posits “the current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains. Many of us are developing neural circuitry that is customized for rapid and incisive spurts of directed concentration.”
There is little doubt that the progression of technology has vastly improved our listening and viewing experiences with the arts. From the construction of an elaborate museum which researches and displays world-class art and artifacts, to the increasing array of chemicals that compose the perfect brushstroke, to the bone-rattling sound system which allowed me to not only hear, but feel, Hook's performance. Not to mention the innumerable positive effects new technology and social media have had for the arts advocacy and marketing fields. But I’m talking about in-person, literal engagement with an art form…
To read the rest of Justin's blog post, comment, and to browse other entries, visit Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog.
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For an analysis and further discussion regarding the issues raised recent editions of Arts Watch, visit The Clyde Fitch Report's Arts Advocacy Update. The Clyde Fitch Report (CFR) is a website exploring the nexus of arts and politics—including news and features, interviews, guest columns, bipartisan opinions, and public comments. You can also visit website by clicking on the CFR button on the left side of the page.