Archive for the ‘Politics and the Arts’ Category

Charleston County (SC) Public Library System – Best Value and Best Investment in Our Future

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Editor’s note: If you live in Charleston County SC, you need to go to at least one of these meetings if not all of them to show your support for the Charleston County Public Library system – now and into the future. You won’t hear me say this often – but $100 million dollars is peanuts compared to other projects being funded – yet serve so few people. The libraries in this community serve all the people – rich, middle-class, poor, and homeless – of all ages. If Charleston can cough up $100 million to fix the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium the way it should have been to begin with – it surely can give the same amount of funding to expand and renovate our libraries. So read the official press release about these meetings – then participate. And artists remember – the libraries present art exhibits in several of its branches. Don’t let some small minded people teabag this project.

chascolibrarylogo

Charleston County Public Library in Charleston County, SC, Will Conduct Community Meetings to Explain Library Construction/Renovation Proposal

Charleston County voters will consider a proposal this November, 2014, to fund the renovation of existing library branches and construction of new ones, a question last on the ballot 28 years ago.

To help voters understand the proposal and what it means for their neighborhoods, Charleston County Public Library is holding a series of 10 community meetings throughout the county between March 31 and April 21, 2014.

314library-Community-Meeting-schedule-2-21-14-344x450

The building plan is a result of two years of study that included community input, a detailed survey of the library’s existing 16 branches, research into library service and technology trends plus a review of population and demographic changes since the last library referendum in 1986. Approved by 76 percent of the voters at the time, that referendum included funds to construct four regional libraries – Mt. Pleasant, Dorchester Road, St. Andrews and Otranto Road – plus expanding or constructing a new Main Library.

The current proposal calls for constructing four new buildings, renovating 12 existing branches and moving library support services out of the Main Library to free up that space for public use. Estimated cost to construct, renovate and relocate the 17 buildings is $103.8 million, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 owner-occupied home a maximum of $12 annually.

314library-ReferendumMap-8-450x339

In January, Charleston County Council agreed to put the building referendum on this November’s ballot. The proposal came after the library completed a Strategic Plan that determined the library’s buildings and services fall far behind services provided in other areas and are below standards established by the S.C. State Library for public libraries in the state. As a result, county and library staff worked with architects and engineers to do a detailed analysis of all library facilities to determine what buildings can be renovated, where new buildings should be located, what technology updates are needed and develop estimated costs.

Now that the analysis is complete, it is being presented to area residents during a series of community meetings to gather input. County Council hopes to finalize the proposal and the wording for the ballot in early summer.

If approved by voters, officials estimate the four new libraries could open by late 2017 or early 2018. The renovation of existing branches would be staggered, with most of it completed in 2018-2019.

Studies looking at library services and buildings determined shortcomings in several areas, including the need for updated buildings, technology and the ability to provide more modernized services. Since the 1986 referendum, the county’s population has grown 27 percent while the library’s circulation soared by 289 percent in the same period. Current circulation is nearly 3.4 million items annually. Additionally, the library offered nearly 6,000 free programs, classes, exhibits, concerts and similar programs last year, attracting more than 166,000 residents.

In a comparison to public library standards adopted by the S.C. State Library, CCPL fell far below the standards in multiple categories. For instance, the standards say libraries should have 1.25 square feet of public space per capita. Locally, that would equal more than 450,000 square feet of libraries to serve local residents, but CCPL’s 16 branches have 155,458 square feet or about .43 square feet per resident. In the area of technology, the state says libraries should have three public computers per 1,000 residents or more than 1,000 locally. CCPL has .9 public computers or 349 public computers.

For a complete list of Community Meetings, a map showing the construction/renovation proposal and a breakdown of the estimated costs, visit the library’s web site at (www.ccpl.org). Residents unable to attend one of the community meetings can send their comments by e-mail to (letusknow@ccpl.org).

As an Artist or Art Lover – You Should Go See the Movie – “The Monuments Men”

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Before the Winter Freeze of 2014, when the lights when out and the phone and Internet service crashed, Linda and I went to see the movieThe Monuments Men.

214monuments-men-movie

It’s a movie based on a real situation when during WW II President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a good democrat and apparently lover of art, dispatched a group of middle-aged men – art historians, museum curators, architects, and other arty types to go to Europe and save the art the Nazis were stealing and perhaps would destroy at the end of the war – as they were loosing. As it turns out – they also saved it from the Russians who would claim it as their spoils of war.

Critics had panned the movie, but I’ve learned not to listen to them and after the movie was over I knew why. There were no special effects, limited explosions, no car chases, and get this – no sex scenes. What kind of movie can that be? Well, there was an offer of sex.

What George Clooney, the movie’s director, presented us was a slightly Hollywood juiced up movie of historical facts, with an all-star cast. The basics were that the Americas would save the art from the Nazis, who looted five million works of art, and returned what they could to the original owners. And as usual, our good allies the French didn’t trust us to do the right thing.

214real-monument-men1-450x305
American GIs, under the supervision of Capt. James Rorimer, carry paintings down the steps of Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Germany, where about 21,000 items stolen by the Nazis from French art collectors were recovered.

What was hard to believe in the Clooney movie was that seven arty types would do all this without the help of any regular Army types. In reading about the real events, from 200 to 350 men and women worked on this project – including our allies. I would think a letter from the President would get you more help than a jeep driver who spoke German. But Hollywood can’t help being Hollywood.

I won’t say much more about the movie, except it was much better than critics stated, but Clooney could have told more of the story.

The movie turns out to be quite timely as last year German authorities found 1,400 pieces of stolen art from WW II in a Munich apartment, including works by Matisse and Picasso. And recently an 18th-century painting from that group was returned to Poland, nearly 70 years after it was stolen by the Nazis.

There is an older movie about this same subject called The Train (1964), which was directed by John Frankenheimer and staring a very physical Burt Lancaster – playing a railroad official who stopped a train full of stolen art headed to Germany. It’s a great black and white film.

SC Arts Commission Saved Again, But Just Barely – the 2012 Version

Monday, July 30th, 2012

1209artscommlogo1

I think the first paragraph of the article written by Otis R. Taylor, Jr. in The State newspaper after the big rally says it all.

“The State House was under an umbrella of creativity Monday evening as hundreds of arts supporters met on the grounds to oppose Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of the South Carolina Arts Commission budget.”

You can read the whole article at this link (http://www.thestate.com/2012/07/17/2356789/arts-supporters-rally.html#storylink=cpy).

Even Columbia’s Free Times newspaper reported that only “hundreds flocked to the State House for a colorful pro-arts rally”.

A Facebook event page was created, Rally for the Arts – Support the SC Arts Commission, which invited 13,327 Facebook members (people involved with the arts in SC) to join in, yet only 1,688 “claimed” they would show up at the rally, while 578 others said – maybe. Yet only hundreds showed up.

Some will say the weather kept people away, but if I was the Arts Commission I wouldn’t want to count on my fair-weather friends to save me again and again, as this battle over the Arts Commission’s future isn’t over.

The main point here is – the SC Arts Commission was never in real danger of being eliminated – it was all a bunch of political show.

Our Tea-Bagger Governor wants to eliminate the Arts Commission altogether, which is wrong, but the Legislature has other plans. The House lawmakers approved a bill that would have moved the Arts Commission into the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, much like the way North Carolina handles its arts agency, but the Senate did not vote on the bill. Hopefully that will happen this next session and the Arts Commission will be reorganized with a different mission, some different staff members, and hopefully not many of the Commission’s “rubber stamp” board members – if any.

The Governor claims that the Arts Commission’s overhead is too high and I hate to have to agree with her on that point. I couldn’t begin to explain what 20 staff members do on a daily basis at the Arts Commission. And, their expenses do seem to be out of whack for an agency with such a small budget – under $4 million this year. They even had to move the agency into cheaper digs this year to stay under the 30 percent overhead mandated last year by the Legislature. And, the Governor is not happy about the executive director, Ken May’s salary – $91,664 a year. Which does seem high for an agency with such a small budget.

I looked at some other SC State agency’s budgets and pay their executives get and I was a little surprised. Take the Sea Grant Consortium, which was also on the Gov’s chopping block. They have a $6 million budget, but their executive director is only making $83,408. This agency has the same number of employees, a bigger budget, but the top person makes less money.

The head of the Budget and Control Board makes $173,380, but that agency deals with almost $1/2 billion and the head of the Department of Transportation which deals in billions only makes $146,000. Wouldn’t you think an executive’s salary would have some relationship to their budget?

I’d say Ken May’s salary is a big part of the Arts Commission’s overhead – in relation to it’s budget. Is it too much? I know a smaller salary would mean more funding for arts projects.

I’ve heard some talk that the Legislature is thinking about an audit of the Arts Commission which may revel more about where the money is going. That might clear the air some, but I would prefer they get on with the business of re-organizing state government before our Governor comes up with some new ideas about pleasing her Tea Bag supporters. She might start giving the Arts Commission’s board the Darla Moore treatment.

So who showed up at the big rally? Mostly people from Columbia. And, I’m not surprised about that. They are close to the Arts Commission – a centralized agency based in Columbia with no branches in other areas of the state. These were the people who see the Arts Commission staff at their performances, their exhibits, and in the grocery stores and restaurants of Columbia.

Here’s an example of how Columbia oriented the control of the arts are in South Carolina. Take a look at the SC Arts Foundation who the Arts Commission is in “partnership” with – sharing address, staff and phone numbers, but are totally separate – so they say.

The South Carolina Arts Foundation Board of Directors 2011-2012

Michel G. Moore, Columbia, President
Debra Timmerman, Charlotte, Vice President
Childs Cantey Thrasher, Columbia, Vice President
Jeffry C. Caswell, Columbia, Treasurer
Victoria Hollins, Columbia, Secretary
Patrick R. Van Huss, Columbia, Immediate Past President
Miller G. Bannister, Columbia
Gloria M. Bell, Charleston
Maryanne Belser, Columbia
Jerelyn “Jeri” Boysia, Columbia
Eric Brown, Greenville
J. Ashley Cooper, Charleston
Fannie I. “Judy” Cromwell, Greenville
Beryl Dakers, Columbia
James M. Dedman, IV, Greenville
Chandra Foster, Fort Mill
Shani Gilchrist, Columbia
Sarah Lynn Hayes, Rock Hill – Ex Officio
Robert Hoak, Greenville
Pamela L. Jenkins, Columbia
Robin Leverton, Beaufort
Ken May, Columbia – Ex Officio (Non-Voting)
J. Michael McCabe, Columbia
Rhett Outten, Mt. Pleasant
Donna Pullen, West Columbia
Ruth Rast, Columbia
Peggy Reynolds, Beaufort
Elizabeth Sowards, Chapin – Ex Officio
Linda C. Stern, Columbia
Leo F. Twiggs, Orangeburg
Bhavna Vasudeva, Columbia
John Whitehead, Columbia

All but one officer is from Columbia. Out of 32 members, 18 are from Columbia (more than half the board), 4 are from Greenville, 3 from the Charleston area, 2 from the Rock Hill area, 2 from Beaufort, 1 from Orangeburg, 1 from Chapin, and 1 from Charlotte, NC (?). I’d like to hear the story of why one of the members lives in Charlotte, NC.

There are no members from North Charleston (3rd largest city in SC), Spartanburg, Aiken, Florence, Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach, Sumter or any of the smaller communities in the state – other than Chapin, which is just outside of Columbia. Why are so many from Columbia?

Of course many of these same folks jump back and forth from the board of the Arts Commission to the board of the SC Arts Foundation – and back again. I can’t remember when a few of these folks haven’t been on one or the other of the boards.

It’s no wonder there weren’t rallies all over the state to save the Arts Commission or people traveling from far ends of the state to the rally in Columbia. The representation isn’t there for the whole state. And, for many around the state like me – we didn’t notice a thing different when the Arts Commission was shut down and won’t notice a thing now that their doors are open again. The Arts Commission isn’t there for us – they’re only there for non-profits and a few individuals.

South Carolina needs to continue to support the arts with our tax dollars, but we also need to shake things up and re-organize the arts structure in the state and change some of the faces in control. We are way behind our neighbor to the North in making the arts a productive part of our state’s economy (at the bank – not just on paper) – and not just thought of as a burden.

Let’s hope the Legislature does something soon.

American College of Building Arts Graduates Seven in Charleston, SC

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Here’s a headline I didn’t find on the Post and Courier website today. I had to see it in The State – 7 graduate from American College of Building Arts.

Read more here: (http://www.thestate.com/2012/05/05/2264061/7-graduate-from-american-college.html).

I have two questions: How much money did it cost the City of Charleston and the local community to have these seven people graduate? Money that could have gone to other things. And, how many of the seven will end up staying in Charleston – six months to a year from now?

I wish this was a joke, but it’s just another of Mayor Joe Riley’s follies.

Oh – let me throw in a third question: I wonder how many students will graduate from Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC, this year? Another of Mayor Joe Riley’s follies.

Big Arts Organizations Are Falling by the Wayside in the Carolinas

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

A few years ago it was the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art(SECCA) in Winston-Salem, NC, that needed the state of North Carolina to come its rescue by taking it over and putting it under the umbrella of the North Carolina Museum of Art, a division of the NC Department of Cultural Resources. At the time SECCA desperately needed repairs but had no funds to accomplish the renovation. It finally reopened on July 15, 2010.

seccalogo

But how long it stays open depends on them attracting private funding and more people paying admission to get in the door to see the kind of art they will be offering.

Correction: Admission to SECCA is free, but they will still need funding support from areas other than the State of NC to stay healthy.

This spring, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in Charleston, SC, suspended operations, unable to finish the final event of its season. So far the musicians have refused the latest offer of the Symphony’s management to take another reduction in pay. Efforts are underway by a group of community leaders to reinvent the Symphony, while Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is trying to get the community to swallow a plan to renovate the aging Gaillard Auditorium (performance venue of the CSO) to the tune of $140 million + for the use of the Spoleto Festival USA (for 17 days a year), the questionable Symphony, and other groups who can’t afford the old auditorium fee. The Mayor who usually gets what he wants is meeting some resistance.

chassymphonylogo

In May, the trustees of the Fayetteville Art Museum in Fayetteville, NC, closed the doors of the museum – in debt, out of money, and with no future in sight. While they were trying to raise money for a new facility they forgot to raise money to operate the current facility. The local arts council cut off a major part of the museum’s funding after discovering some discrepancies in the museum’s financial statements. Community leaders there are trying to put the pieces back together.

fayattevillemoalogo

Who will be next?

Was it the economy that brought these organizations down? Was it the reductions in public funding? Was it a lack of public interest? Or was it bad management?

In these three cases it was probably a bit of all four factors and a few more. The economy has taken its toll on all in the arts. Reductions in funding are also a factor all non-profits have had to deal with in the last couple of years, but some arts organizations have failed to realize that as a part of the overall community they can’t just ignore the likes and dislikes of the community in general – of which they say they exist to serve, but are they?

Some art organizations like to think they know what’s best for the community, but never seem to figure out why the community doesn’t support them with funding and paid attendance. Offering programming which is highly acclaimed by art critics, but not by the community is a sign of bad management. That old mantra of “the arts shouldn’t be profitable” has worn thin with taxpayers and business leaders who are feeling the pinch themselves.

1209artscommlogo1

Yes, these arts organizations should expand our horizons, educate, and inspire, but not cram their tastes down the public’s throat – then wonder why no one shows up.

Of course their partners in this attitude are sometimes state arts agencies, like the SC Arts Commission, who also think they know what’s best for the community, by slanting funding toward organizations willing to express the agency’s views over the views of the community.

So angry taxpayers are in a mindset to revolt against those forces who want to tell them where their tax dollars are best spent and they are electing representatives with a like mindset to make reductions in government spending – while the arts and cultural agencies have a bull’s eye on their backs.

Yes, the folks who directly benefit from the funds these agencies dole out are protesting, but is the general public – when other services are also on the chopping block?

In the next few years we’re going to see what’s really important in the public’s eyes – arts and libraries or roads and property tax reductions. It seems we can’t have both any more.

I wonder how many of those folks who were protesting Governor Sanford’s veto cuts to the SC Budget actually took time to vote in recent primaries? Not many is my guess. But if people who love the arts want to turn back this tide of cuts to the arts – they better grab all of their friends and show up to vote this November – or your world, as you know it, will soon disappear.

And, they better get real on how they spend what little money is left and make sure the public sees that the spending is justified and worthy to them – not art critics.

It’s time for the arts to get smart – really smart.

SC Arts Commission May have Dodged a Bullet – But More Cuts Are Coming for SC’s Non-Profit Arts Groups

Monday, June 28th, 2010

1209artscommlogo1

Yes, the SC State Legislature may have stopped Governor Mark Sanford’s veto of the SC Arts Commission’s budget cut, but more cuts will come to the SC Arts Commission’s budget as our state adjust to shortfalls in revenue that legislators just ignored (after Tue. June 29,2010, that is). It’s easy to override a veto, it makes you look like you’re a friend of the arts to some folks back home, but those legislators know the State will be doing their dirty work for them when adjustments have to be made throughout next year’s budget cycle as projected revenues fall short. It’s SC’s official dance – pass the buck and pass the responsibility.

So, what will we see from our saved Arts Commission under the leadership of Ken May – its newly named director?

Our old friend Jeffrey Day continues in his position as the unofficial press agent for the SC Arts Commission by offering heaps of praise on Ken May in an issue of Columbia, SC’s Freetimes.

According to Day, one of May’s positive attributes is that he can be seen at art events all around Columbia. I bet he can also be seen at Columbia grocery stores, movie theatres, and book stores, but what good does that do the rest of SC’s art community? Yes, the Charleston, SC, community might see him there during the Spoleto Festival, but that’s one of the things wrong with the Arts Commission – it is the poorest form of centralized government. The entire staff sits in Columbia most of the time. And, with more budget cuts – they won’t be going anywhere too soon.

As far as I know – until proven differently – May represents the same old, same old, from the Arts Commission – which is great for the sector of SC’s art community that has been living off the Arts Commission’s funding for decades. Not so good for those who have gotten nothing and not so good for new groups pulling up to the Arts Commission’s trough – only to find no room.

So what’s the future look like? Well with the prospects of a new governor on the way – one who looks like they could prove to be a Sanford style governor on steroids – not too secure.

Non-profit arts groups are going to have to deal with less public funding, the SC Arts Commission will have to deal with less funding and the list of groups who get it will get smaller and smaller. It actually could get very ugly – during the fight over who is more deserving or more connected to get that funding. In fact, I’d be concerned if I was an arts group outside of Columbia. It’s easier to cut funding of groups you don’t attend on a regular basis. Of course May doesn’t determine who gets funding and how much – the Arts Commission Board does that – at least they would if they were really leading the Arts Commission. But, we all know the staff really does.

Again, I haven’t noticed that this current crop of Board Members are less rubbery than former Board groups. It’s so easy to just go along with the staff recommendations – they know what’s best. They know the right people, the deserving – those who will praise them – they’re buddies.

The Who said we won’t get fooled again, but I think we just did.

Charleston, SC’s Mayor Joe Riley Is A Big Supporter Of The Visual Arts

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Let me make a correction to that headline. Mayor Joe Riley of Charleston, SC, is a big supporter of the American School of the Building Arts – period.

In a The Post and Courier article offered on the front page of the July 25, 2009, issue it states that the Mayor would like the City of Charleston to lease part of the Trolley Barn facility on Meeting Street in Charleston to the American School of the Building Arts for $1 a year. Sweet!

It was almost a year ago when the Mayor asked the City of Charleston to make a sweet deal loan to the American School of the Building Arts of $734,500 to save the financially troubled college from having to close its doors. Double sweet!

I made a blog entry about that on Aug. 23, 2008 titled, “What Joe Riley Wants – Joe Gets“. It’s good reading to see how the City of Charleston works. I made the blog entry to show artists in Charleston, who had just met several times to see what could be done about providing affordable space for artists in Charleston, how far the Mayor will go to help someone in the arts. He’ll do just about anything for some and nothing for most.

In this July 25, 2009, article we also learn that the City of Charleston Housing Authority also sold the old city jail facility – which used to be used for visual art exhibits to the American School of the Building Arts for $3 total. Triple sweet!

Why so much support for a college that after five years is yet to be accredited and only turned out 7 students in its first graduation? Well, in my post on Aug. 23, 2008, I explained that Pierre Manigault is chairman of the college’s board of trustees – he is also chairman of the board of Evening Post Publishing, parent company of Charleston.net and The Post and Courier. The students being trained at this college will also be working on Charleston’s historic homes – owned by the who’s who of Charleston. If you plan on being Charleston’s Mayor for life – you need these people.

Four days later on July 29, 2009, The Post and Courier offers as their top editorial of the day that the American School of the Building Arts would be good for Charleston and the neighborhood. Surprise! As usual no individual takes credit for the editorial – the paper just list all four possible contributors at the top of the page and for all we know Pierre Manigault could have written the “opinion” and just handed it to one of the four. It also mentions that the college graduated its first class last spring, but forgot to mention that it was only 7 students. What an impact they will make – if they even stay in Charleston.

The last time I posted a piece on the American School of the Building Arts I got an e-mail and call from its founder on how I was betraying the arts community and how hard the college really had it. What kind of supporter to the arts community could I be to attack such tough deals? I don’t know – maybe one who would like to see some parity sometime. If he wants to call again to tell me how rough he has it – please do. I love a good joke.

Of course another factor involved in these deals is that this sweet lease will bring the American School of the Building Arts back into the boundaries of the City of Charleston. The college has had its main facility housed at the old Navy base in North Charleston, SC – something Mayor Riley couldn’t stand.

So let’s review – $700,000+ loan, one facility for $3 total and another for $1 a year lease for part of a building. I wonder how long it will be before the college asks for money from the city to fix these facilities up for proper use? My guess is not long. If not the city – the US government.

Update on NEA Stimulus Monday for the Arts

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

We’re finding out some things about the $50 million the National Endowment for the Arts got for economic stimulus recovery for the arts. Well, the non-profit part of the arts that is. Everyone else involved in the arts will be left out in the cold. And, it’s pretty cold out there in this economy.

The trickle down effect is taking its toll on the $50 million figure. First off, $30 million was set aside for previous NEA grant recipients who received funding within the past four years. That’s 64 groups in NC and maybe a dozen in SC. The remaining $20 million was split (almost in a King Solomon manner) between 63 – state arts agencies including the District of Columbia, regional arts organizations like the Southern Arts Federation and US territories like Virgin Islands, Guan and American Samoa. The pie is bigger than most would think.

As the money trickles down from there, here is what our states received and those of states near us.

North Carolina Arts Council ($339,100), South Carolina Arts Commission ($311,500), Georgia Council for the Arts ($342,000) and Tennessee Arts Commission ($321,800).

The big states didn’t do that much better.

California Arts Council ($502,400), Texas Commission on the Arts ($427,300), and New York State Council on the Arts ($399,900).

Imagine trying to split up $400,000 in recovery money for the arts groups in New York city alone, much less the state of New York.

And, what about the smaller states?

Alaska State Council on the Arts received ($290,000).

This hardly seems fair or makes good sense. Alaska gets just $100,000 shy of what was given to New York state. I’m not sure even King Solomon would see the justice in that.

And what about those “other” groups most wouldn’t think of off the top of their heads?

The Southern Arts Federation based in Atlanta, GA, will distribute $510,500 within the nine state arts agencies they represent. They say they will contribute $51,000 to each of the nine states to distribute within the states – saving a bit of the money for themselves ($51,500). A 10% finders fee – they have to eat too.

The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities received ($290,000), Virgin Islands Council on the Arts received ($50,000), and the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Council for Arts & Culture, Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities, and American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture & Humanities each received ($25,000).

Now, when you start to think about the hundreds and hundreds of organizations in each of these states, regions or territories – that trickle stream is going to start to look like a drip, drip, drip. That $50 million figure almost seems laughable as economic recovery.

Out of the $311,500 the SC Arts Commision is receiving from the NEA, they will keep about $50,000 (16%), but that money will be made up by the SAF money – so it’s a wash. The Arts Commission also has to eat.

How many jobs will this really protect? That’s what it’s all about, right – saving jobs in the arts?

Here’s what the NEA says this is all about.

“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides $50 million to be distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn. Forty percent of such funds will be distributed to State arts agencies and regional arts organizations and 60 percent of the funds will be competitively awarded to nonprofit organizations that meet the eligibility criteria established for this program.”

The NEA’s $50 million was to go towards saving jobs that were being lost in the arts community.

The SAF says: “Southern Arts Federation’s distribution of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds will be through partnering with our region’s nine state arts agencies to re-grant funds to arts organizations in our states for arts jobs preservation.”

But, here is what I found on the NC Arts Council’s website which sheds a different light on what this money can be used for or what it will be used for.

Letter from E-News from NC Arts Council Mar./Apr. 2009

From Executive Director Mary B. Regan

Updated March 9, 2009

“Last week the NEA released the guidelines for the $50 million in stimulus funds they received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The one-time grants will help preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector that are threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the economic downturn.

Thirty million of this will be awarded through direct grants to organizations that have been NEA grant recipients within the past four years.

About 45 North Carolina organizations (those that have received NEA grants within the last 4 years) are eligible to apply directly to the NEA for grants of $25,000 or $50,000. Groups can apply for salary support for critical jobs that are in jeopardy or have been eliminated as a result of the current economic climate and for fees for previously engaged artists or contractual personnel to maintain or expand their engagements. The application deadline is April 2, 2009. We strongly encourage all eligible groups to apply directly to the NEA for these funds.

The remaining $20 million of the NEA funds will be distributed to state and regional arts agencies. The N.C. Arts Council will distribute our state’s share of these funds. Nancy Trovillion is developing these guidelines and will send them out within the next six weeks. We anticipate that the deadline will be in June and we will work on a quick turnaround review process so that announcements can be made in July or early August.

The NEA is requiring that our guidelines be similar to their direct grant guidelines. Organizations that receive one of the stimulus grants directly from the NEA will not be able to receive a grant from our share of the NEA stimulus funds.

Additionally, we have studied the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Economic Stimulus Package) to find opportunities for the arts to be a part of rebuilding our economy. There are Economic Stimulus Arts Funding Opportunities outlined on our Web site with examples of how federal programs can fund the arts.

To be very clear about the language in the Stimulus Bill, there is no restriction on using the money for the arts. The Senate version did contain language prohibiting the money from going to museums, theatres, and arts centers, but this language was dropped in the final compromise bill. If you encounter any confusion on this issue, please let us know.

Hang in there. Let us know if there’s any way we can help.”

Mary B. Regan, Executive Director
North Carolina Arts Council

As the executive director of the NC Arts Council points out to the people who will be applying for this money in her last paragraph – “there is no restriction on using the money for the arts.” She underlined the words no restriction – giving these groups the green light for – whatever.

Even though every statement keeps stressing that this recovery money is for saving jobs in the arts – wink, wink – it’s really for anything and anybody we want to interpret it to be for.

And, people in government wonder why people (taxpayers) don’t trust them.

Finally, just before posting we received info from the NC Arts Council with a link to their guidelines to apply for this funding of $339,100 – minus whatever amount they are keeping in house – all Mama’s children got to eat. The guidelines are titled, Creative Workforce Grants, and they use the words job and salary a lot, but it also keeps mentioning the word “project” – maybe that’s the wink, wink part. Here’s a link to the guidelines.

This fuzzy interpretation of guidelines is something I have found to be the norm in the world of the non-profit arts. They put out statements as to what qualifications are for a program or a grant – to discourage many from applying, knowing that the savvy will call to find out from their friends at the agency – how soft those requirements are. And, when the final results are announced – many that didn’t apply, as they thought they couldn’t, find they maybe could have – since someone like them did and got it. Even though the two are equally qualified or disqualified. It’s all about inside info and playing the system.

Like the little understood fact that when it comes to federal money – all can apply. No one can be turned down from applying for something even if they don’t qualify. Then, only those who apply can be considered, whether they are qualified or not. And, things do seem to slip through the cracks at times. The trick is to get you not to apply.

Let’s hope some change will come to this system someday. Perhaps it’s time for Mary B. Regan to retire too – wink, wink.

With the full disclosure promised with these recovery funds, we hope to keep you posted as to where the money goes and what it is used for – saving jobs – I’m sure. We’ll see.

Maybe it’s time for the Art Police.

What Was Your Politician’s Grade in Supporting the Arts?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Besides all the other issues at stake in this upcoming election – what’s at stake when it comes to the arts? They say most people vote their wallet. If you’re in the arts, you should know how the people who represent you in Washington stand when it comes to supporting the arts.

On Sept. 16, 2008, the Americans for the Arts Action Fund PAC issued its Congressional Arts Report Card, covering the 110th Congress (2007-2009). That’s House of Representatives members only. The entire Report Card containing letter grades and numerical scores on arts issues of every Member of Congress based on his or her voting record and grades and ranking for individual states. A complete report can be found online at (www.artsactionfund.org/stay_informed/special_reports/).

The report says that the 110th Congress is decidedly pro-arts. Congress voted to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts from $124.4 million to $144.7 million. This $20 million increase by Congress lays the foundation for a full restoration of NEA funding to its 1992 level – $176 million.

So, progress is being made in taking us back to funding levels of 1992. Gosh, who was President then?

The Report Card assigns each Member of Congress a letter grade and numerical score based on his or her voting record on specific arts and arts education policy issues. Four separate congressional actions are covered, and each is weighted based on its importance to the arts – with the greatest weight given to four votes on funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). A perfect score equals 100 points, and the points are correlated to a letter grade of A+ through F. The Report Card also includes a detailed arts voting record for each Member.

So, how did our Congressional members do here in the Carolinas? Let’s see.

North Carolina by (party) and (grade)

G.K. Butterfield (D) B+
Howard Coble (R) C
Bob Etheridge (D) A
Virigina Foxx (R) F
Robin Hayes (R) D
Walter Jones (R) D
Patrick McHenry (D) A
Brad Miller (D) A
Sue Myrick (R) D
David Price (D) A+
Heath Schuler (D) B
Melvin Watt (D) A

South Carolina by (party) and (grade)

J. Gresham (R) F
Henry Brown (R) B
James Clyburn (D) A
Bob Ingles (R) C
John Spratt (D) A
Joe Wilson (R) F

Let’s look at how the Carolinas stack up as a State and those States where the people running for President and Vice-President come from.

State (score)(grade)(rank)

North Carolina 54 C+ T-30
South Carolina 48 C T-40

Alaska (Palin) 20 D T-49
Arizona (McCain) 45 C 45
Deleware (Biden) 92 A T-4
Illinois (Obama) 76 B+ 17

T – tied for ranking

What can we make of this info?

Basically, the arts do better under Democratic support.

When you vote on Nov. 4th – ask yourself if you’re satisfied that Congress is just about getting back to 1992 art support levels or would you like to come up to the 21st century?