Archive for the ‘Unbelievable but True’ Category

Morning After Snow in Bonneau, SC – Feb. 2010

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Well, as you can see, it was a winter wonderland – the morning after. It was well worth the 20+ year wait.

The only problem – it took some time to find the cord to download images from the camera into the computer.

Here’s our evening snowman in the morning.

This is looking out our front door.

Another view across the street.

Simply amazing!

I hope we don’t have to wait another 20 years for this to happen again, but then again, I hope we never have another winter as cold as this one.

Snowing in Bonneau, SC – Again in 2010

Friday, February 12th, 2010

This strange winter has delivered just about all the things I lived with back in Michigan, so many years ago – except the days when it’s 60 and 70 degrees in between.

Today it started to snow at about 3pm and it hasn’t stopped yet at almost 11pm. We went out after dinner and made this snowman. I can’t wait to see what it looks like outside tomorrow morning.


This isn’t Washington, DC, but it’s just as strange to us here in South Carolina.

The Murder of a Beatles Album

Monday, September 14th, 2009

If you’re an American babyboomer, you grew up with The Beatles. In junior high I went to sock hops where The Beatles music was first played – the first time I danced with a girl was to the Beatles. Later in high school I joined a rock and roll band and we played a lot of Beatles tunes – until the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album came out and there was no way anyone was going to be playing their music again. I listened to those early albums until I absorbed them. I knew every word and I knew how the next song started as the last song ended. I didn’t know until years later that I was listening to “American” Beatles albums.


It turns out that we in America got albums with different covers, different arrangements, different song lineups – all thanks to Capital Records who owned the distribution rights to The Beatles in America. British and European albums were different. Near the end of their career The Beatles created their own record company Apple Records which is now called Apple Corps. When the invention of CD’s came along Apple released the albums with a British take. I first noticed something was wrong when I went to build up my CD collection getting all The Beatles albums in CD format – I have all the vinyl albums.

At the time, it was not easy finding all the albums on CD. I eventually had them all but one – Yesterday and Today. But beyond not being able to find that last album – there was something else wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, but something was different. One of my favorite Beatles album was Rubber Soul – I sang a lot of those songs in that band so I knew that album well. At first I figured it was the CD factor – all songs on one side. You don’t have to flip the album to hear side two. But, after a certain amount of frustration in finding Yesterday and Today I resorted to making a special order. It’s was then that I learned what was up. I was told that the songs from Yesterday and Today were placed on the CD versions of Rubber Soul, Revolver and Help.


Then it sank in – that’s what’s wrong with those albums – the order of the songs was all wrong. Then it got even worse. Apple not only did away with Yesterday and Today – apparently an American only album, but they had messed up Rubber Soul, Revolver and the Help album – the soundtrack of The Beatles’ movie Help.

It was a real mess – songs from Yesterday and Today and even Rubber Soul were all over the place – except where they were supposed to be.

I could not get my head around this. Why did they do this? Perhaps they were trying to save the consumer some money by doing away with one of the albums, but with Apple Corps track record of making alternative Beatle albums to sell – I don’t think that was the case. Saving us money – right.

As much as I tried to adjust to this new line up of songs and the lack of a whole Beatles album – I couldn’t – that line up of songs was imprinted in my brain. For my own sanity – every once in a while I had to drag out the old vinyl records and play these albums the way I was used to hearing them. Years later, I came across a turntable that had a USB hook up for a computer and I was able to “remaster” my own CDs. Finally, I could listen to a CD in my car and hear The Beatles the way I loved them. I further learned that there were lots of differences between “American” releases of Beatles songs and albums and those released in Britain or in other parts of the world. It was like the history we were taught in school – more American marketing than reality.


On 9/9/09 the video game Rock Band released its newest game – The Beatles. At the same time Apple Corps was going to be re-releasing all The Beatles albums again – remastered to what they would sound like if you were in the recording studio. I was fooled by the word “all”. Our son was dying to have the new game and I was interested in what these remastered albums would be like – so on 9/9/09 – we were in the store. I soon learned nothing had changed – Yesterday and Today does not exist.

I know for most people, they’re thinking – what’s the big deal. Get over it. But, I’m sure there are others like me in feeling a little bit of my past has been taken away.

The Truth as Americans Knew it.


The Beatles album Yesterday and Today was released after Rubber Soul and before Revolver. There was a controversy about the album cover. The first cover image was banned – it showed the four Beatles as butchers with blood, toy baby parts and meat.

The songs on Side One were:
Drive My Car
I’m Only Sleeping
Nowhere Man
Dr. Robert
Act Naturally

Side Two
And Your Bird Can Sing
If I Needed Someone
We Can Work It Out
What Goes On?
Day Tripper

That was a heck of an album.

When Rubber Soul was made into a CD, Drive My Car, Nowhere Man, What Goes On?, and If I Needed Someone were added to its line up. Revolver gotI’m Only Sleeping, And Your Bird Can Sing, and Dr. Robert.

The songs Yesterday, Act Naturally, We Can Work It Out and Day Tripperwere sent to other albums. Yesterday, We Can Work It Out and Day Tripper were also offered on a CD which included single hits called the Red Album 1962-66. These same songs can be found on The Beatles #1 hits CD.

Two other victims of this rearranging of album line ups was the songs I’ve Just Seen A Face and It’s Only Love – they were removed from Rubber Soul to make room for the songs from Yesterday and Today. They ended up on the album Help with Act Naturally (from Yesterday and Today) and the songs from the movie soundtrack of The Beatles’ movie Help.

What a mess – just to get rid of one album.

I myself am tired of people rewriting history. What would you think if the wizards at Apple Corps decided that after all this time they liked Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds to follow Sgt. Pepper’s Only Hearts Club Bandinstead of With A Little Help From My Friends? What’s the difference?

Well, one thing is for sure, Rock Band The Beatles will introduce a whole new generation of young folks to The Beatles of old and a lot of old folks like me will be singing old songs they grew up with along side their children and grandchildren. But, I keep reminding my son, Rock Band is a great video game, but it is not like being in a real rock band – playing a real guitar, singing in front of an audience who has paid money to hear you play. That’s a totally different thing altogether. It’s really great and doing Beatles songs is really special.

Linda (my better half) and I got mostly 100-98% scores – on the easy setting – singing all 45 songs – in one night. Our son Andrew did just as well on guitar and bass. Hey, maybe we’ll be the next Partridge Family – not!

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 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.

I’ve Been Taking a Survey of Charleston, SC, for 35 Years

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I came to the Charleston, SC, area from Michigan in November of 1974. I liked what I found here and have found no reason to leave since – although I eventually moved 45 miles away to Berkeley County – a place where I could afford to do an arts newspaper and own a home. And, maybe 35 more years or so from now – I might own that home one day, if I live that long.

I came, so many years ago, as an adult. And I only mention this in the context that when dealing with many people in the art community these days – I’ve lived and dealt with Charleston’s art community – long before most were born – some in Charleston – most from somewhere else.

I mention that last bit about coming from somewhere else because I’ve been and still consider myself part of Charleston’s working class. We’re the folks that do stuff – offer services, create new – well, everything. That’s the way it’s been in Charleston for the most part – the people that built up the community come from somewhere else – first from Europe, then Africa, and now from other parts of South Carolina, the South, and America. Most, not all, who were born here are connected to a heritage of leadership and consumers – they’re the deciders and users. Both are vital parts of any community.

That was most evident at a recent meeting of arts people gathered together for a mid-June lunch at the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston – to get to know each other. Most were relatively new to Charleston, some were what I consider very young and a handful were seasoned veterans of the Charleston art community. I myself, carry my scars of past battles (culture wars) and am easily frustrated by the enthusiasm of these newbees – in that they are going to change Charleston. I find myself more interested in deeds, not words. In fact, it is very hard to get me to go to one of these gatherings anymore. I still make the effort if I can see reason or opportunity, but as I said, I’m not impressed by words. I make my living dealing with words and I know how easily they can be offered without anything to back them up.

I’m a realist, I play the devil’s advocate, I’m pessimistic at times, I’m what my high school German teacher called facetious, but I’m also an optimist – I have to be – I publish an arts newspaper in the Carolinas. I could have done a newspaper about NASCAR and probably made a lot of money by now. But I love the arts. I’m focused on the visual arts, but I like it all – well most of it.

What I don’t like is being asked from time to time to join other folks to step into a big hamster cage and take a spin on the big wheel. I’m too old to ride that wheel anymore – spinning around and around just makes me dizzy. And, I find I don’t get much work done when I’m dizzy.

And spinning in place is what has drawn me to my computer today. ThePost & Courier newspaper has just offered another – State of the Arts article subtitled, “How are Charleston arts organizations weathering the current financial drought?” in it’s Weekend section (7/16/09). It’s as if they don’t even read their own paper – what did they expect to find?

I’m not familiar with the author of the article, (I’m a daily subscriber to theP&C) but I can only guess that it was a young person, fairly new to Charleston’s art community. No veteran would have written what was offered. The article was about a page and a quarter of a regular newspaper page, so expectations were very low to begin with. It’s not like this was considered a major subject for a series.

And, I’m not coming down on the Post & Courier (this time) – many other newspapers have gotten around to offering this same, limited look (more like a peek) at the state of the arts in their community. I’ve seen them in the FreeTimes in Columbia, SC, and the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, NC – they’re all the same – a cursory look at how bad things are in the arts during this economic downturn. Duh! At least in this latest look at the state of the arts no one from Charleston said they depend on making people feel guilty to support them – as one arts person said in Columbia, SC.

Most of these articles are just another plug for a few nonprofits hoping to gain a few more donations, some like this latest version by the P&C were based on national surveys – this one was a National Endowment for the Arts 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Guess what – it’s down.

Another darn survey of the arts!

Here’s a truth. No amount of survey results is going to change my thinking based on my own experience and I imagine that’s the way it is for most people. We are after all creatures of our environment and experience – knowledge based on anything else is hard to accept. We can do it, but it doesn’t come easily. Otherwise how would you explain that there are very large numbers of people in this country – educated under the same system that most people were in America, who believe the earth and the universe is only a few thousand years old. The rest, what most of us call history and science, is all made up by people who just can’t accept their way of thinking or their beliefs.

Surveys are not scientific – they’re just another form of advertising or wishful thinking on most people’s part. And, I’ve never seen one done about the arts that I could believe or that is anywhere close to my own experience – based on the last 35 years. And why is that so?

Most people in the arts don’t participate – that’s the truth. They don’t like the questions asked and they don’t see what difference the survey results will make. That’s even if you ever are offered a close up look at the survey results. Most of the time the only thing offered is someone’s interpretation of what those results mean. They don’t want you to see the raw data because it’s ugly, it might not show the organizers of the survey in a good light, and people who take the surveys plan their answers to project certain results. But the big problem is most people won’t participate. Surveys are no better than opinion polls. You can get any results you want by cooking the questions and selecting who you ask. Make people sign their names to a survey and tell them they are going to be made available for public viewing and I bet you would get entirely different results – if you could get them to take the survey under those standards.

Most of the public doesn’t care about survey results either – they’ve been offered survey results too many times that were just manufactured to project a favorable point of view by the folks paying for or organizing the survey. It’s unfortunate, but true. So, why do so many arts organization believe that doing a survey will change the public’s mind or at least the minds of people making decisions on who gets the money, on how valued the arts are to society? You got me. Look, they either get that point by now or they never will.

In today’s world, I think most people are like me – they want to see deeds, not hear or read words about what the arts are doing for them or how it can enlighten their lives. Show them the deeds and they’ll show you the money – if they have any to spare.

The Charleston Arts Coalition is conducting a survey. You can find it at on their website. The cut off day to participate is July 29, 2009.

Should people in Charleston’s art community take this survey in view of everything I’ve just said? Yes, but only if they are going to be honest and willing to work towards the goals that survey suggests – otherwise why bother? The Charleston Arts Coalition doesn’t just need your 2 cents worth, it needs your participation.

I first offered comments about this group at the very beginning of this blog on May 26, 2008, after going to one of those art community gatherings – this time it was about the lack of affordable space in Charleston for artists. Back then at the end of my blog entry I said, “Most things they want are possible and possible with the help of the community – once the artists – like commercial gallery owners – are willing to put their own money and futures on the bottom line. Money makes the world go round and it’s the mother’s milk of the arts. Once artists stop waving around pumped up economic surveys about the impact of the arts in front of the community and adopt a healthy respect for other people’s money, they will find that many are willing to become partners with them on sound projects. Don’t continue to delude yourselves or insult the intelligence of the public. The call for this movement – if there will be a movement, should be – get real, get serious and you might just get what you want. Carolina Arts will do its part – if presented with a sound proposal, but then we have to fight to survive everyday to keep what we have.”

Since then the Charleston Arts Coalition has been formed, they have a website, a blog and have created another website called Charleston Culture, launched May 14, 2009. The focus of the group seems to be on spreading information about the art community. The lack of space issue has faded into the background for some reason.

I have not found a lot of participation on any of these sites or the blog. Not many people are joining in or offering comments.

I’m still hopeful about this group, but somewhat frustrated with where they seem to be going and at this point – it seems to be the big wheel – in my opinion. Participation is the key and at this point I don’t see a lot of signs of it. A few folks are probably working a lot on this project, but they have yet to gain the attention of the greater Charleston art community. Time will tell and that’s always the case. I’ve seen so many efforts like this come and go – not just in Charleston. Getting the arts community together is like herding cats. I’m stealing that from Christopher Rico an artist and blogger in Clinton, SC.

Getting a large art community together – like Charleston is near impossible. Charleston is small and can’t support such a large art community, which makes for rough and tumble competition for funding and resources. Trust is low and based on past experience.

I’ve taken the survey, I’ve plugged the survey, and I’ve looked at the Charleston Culture and organization’s websites and am trying to figure where and if I fit in. I was trying to participate in a roundtable discussion, but the schedule was during my delivery time for Carolina Arts and that comes first. I don’t live in Charleston so I’m not in the social loop of this group.

I haven’t joined the organization because I’m not sure what I’m joining and where my membership dollars would go. Besides being part of the local media, I’m not sure you can be part of something and comment on it at the same time, and be honest. It’s not an easy thing to do. My best contributions my be as an observer from outside the group.

Either way, build or fade – this group’s efforts depend on the art community’s participation and past experience tells me – they’re not into it – right now at least. What will make them change their minds? I’m still working on that 35 year survey of trying to figure out Charleston’s art community. I’ll let you know when I have it figured out. I haven’t found a lot of logic at this point. But I do know they are not keen on participation, or working on goals where the payoff is in the future, and they have a hard time overlooking self interest for the good of all. This makes them not much different than art communities anywhere else or other people in general.

Now, one thing’s for sure about the Charleston Art Coalition – they have lit a fire under some other groups in Charleston that are supposed to be serving the public. Ever since the Coalition started talking about plans for a cultural website, the City of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs has stepped up work on their efforts to promote Charleston’s cultural events. Even the Coastal Community Foundation suffered an uproar when it stepped in to just help a few groups suffering in the art community over the holiday season. They tried to promote a Charleston Art Alliance to make them look more inclusive, but they learned the art community is bigger than their usual myopic vision.

So if anything the Charleston Arts Coalition has stirred things up some, but time marches against them. People will lose interest – even those involved now, if they don’t see their time and efforts build on something – something not already being offered – something everyone in the art community can be a part of – whatever that is.

But, then again – I’m just one of the old farts of the Charleston art community who has grown tired of spinning in place and sees the negative side of things much more than those who seem to see only the positive future – unknown territory to most of us old veterans. Please, make me wrong folks. I want to be wrong on this subject. I won’t mind it at all.

The Day Man Stepped on the Moon

Monday, July 20th, 2009

All day today members of the media will be posing the question – do you remember where you were when man first stepped on the moon – July 20, 1969? And, I do – I’m really lucky I have any memory of those times – really lucky to have a few brain cells left from that time.


July 1969 was the summer after high school graduation for me and my group of friends seemed to have been celebrating since graduation in early June. A lot of drinking and what not.

That summer my family’s home was the party house. My parents were spending a lot of time in northern Michigan – sometimes two and three weeks at a time and almost every weekend. My dad was a big fisherman. So the group of guys I hung out with were practically living at my house – when they were not at summer jobs, but every evening no matter what – my house was the focal point.

We were big card players back then and the game that summer was In-Between or High or Low. This was a game where everyone playing would put a dollar in the pot and the dealer would place two cards face up and each player could make a bet if the next card would fall in-between. Like if you had a two and a king – chances are the next card would fall in-between, but if it was an ace, two or king – you were burned and you had to put in the pot what your bet was. Depending on how good your chances were – was how much you bet. If you got really good cards – like a two and an ace – with aces you could call it high or low – if this was a high ace – you might bet to cover the pot. Most saw that as a sure bet, but when you’re drinking a lot, there’s a large group and a lot of distractions – you might forget that there are still some twos or aces that have not been played yet in that deck – and get burned when the next card came up. You’d be amazed on how many people got burned on a so called sure thing.

And, then there were some that were so crazy or felt so lucky that they would bet – a lot of money that the next card would be in-between an eight and a king or even less of a spread. We were a crazy bunch back then.

We would play this game all night long or until someone won everyone else’s money. After one of those nights a bunch of us were still chillin’ out – another word for suffering from our hangovers – and watching TV – watching Neil Armstrong get ready to make the first step on the moon. After he did it and didn’t blow up or something or a hand reach out from the ground and grab his foot we cheered – like the rest of the country was doing and started saying – this is big, this is something and before you knew it we were saying – we need to do something – something big. It was, “One small step for man,” and we were going to take one too.

What we came up with was a train trip to Montreal, Canada. Our school’s French club had gone there on a school trip and we heard it was great so we figured that would be a big trip for us. As my memory goes, five guys came up with the money we figured – to the penny – we needed to make the trip – train fare both ways, hotel fee, and some for “entertainment”.

I won’t go into the details of the trip – mostly because I can’t remember them all and what I do remember is a little fuzzy, but we did it and for me – my parents didn’t even know I had left the country. A point of pride throughout my life – it was called independence.

I will tell you a little about the train ride that seemed to last forever. In 1969, as you graduated from high school as a young, healthy US male, we were required to register for the draft and then wait for the draft lottery when your birth-date was assigned a number – mine was 127 – not good, not totally bad, but that’s another story altogether (See the movie Across the Universe). I can bet you that every US male of a certain age group can tell you what their draft number was – to this day. We’re talking Viet Nam folks. On the train, the Grand Trunk Railroad, as we passed into Canada, a conductor came to each of us and asked to see our draft cards and asked – “are you guys really coming back to the US?”. At that point it was never a thought in our minds – we were all headed to college in the fall. Also, at the time, we didn’t know what our draft number would be – that came later that summer – good thing too – I might have ended up living with some of my old distant relatives in Canada.

We all made it back to the good old US of A – penniless, but we had done something – something that to us was big.

Back then America was a can-do society, president John F. Kennedy had thrown down the challenge to Americans and we stepped up. The summer of 1969 was also the summer of Woodstock. I recently watched the movie and felt a little sad about how my generation let a great opportunity slip by to really change our nation and the world. It seems these days we’re more like the – well, I don’t know – it sounds good but maybe we shouldn’t take the chance generation.

Maybe it’s time we did something big – something special for American and maybe, one day we can get ourselves back to the garden. But then, maybe that’s just a line from a song from once upon a time in America.

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.

The Check is in the Mail for the SC Arts Commission

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Take back everything I have said about the SC Arts Commission being forced to live with the reality of an economy that can’t support their pet projects anymore. The check is in the mail. Just like with AIG, get ready to learn about the silly and needless ways SC’s non-profit arts community uses (possible funding) provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act which provides $50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), to fund projects and activities that preserve nonprofit arts sector jobs threatened by the current economic downturn.

We as taxpayers will be funding the distribution of this $50 million throughout America’s art community to protect jobs – not create jobs. And most of the money is only available to those who have already received funding in the past from the NEA – a very small group of organizations in SC.

Of course all this money has to be applied for, but my past experience with how the NEA awards money and verifies how it is used gives me no confidence that this money will be used in a sound and needed way. The fact that it can only go to previous recipients means their is no plan or vision for recovery of all of the art community. It’s more a protection plan for the current and past players – whether they were good stewards of public funding to begin with.

I saw what happened with recovery money provided by the NEA after Hurricane Hugo hit SC. The City of Charleston held on to money years after the money was supposed to be used, unknown to the NEA, and in violation of several federal laws, and eventually had to give it back – instead of really giving it to artists and art organizations who could have used it – at the time of the disaster. This kind of money tends to go toward pet projects of the people holding it. In talking with officials at the NEA about this event I learned they have no enforcement division, they trust recipients to file truthful reports as to how the money was used. There is no follow-up. And, in the end, the NEA just said match the money and use if for – whatever. But, the Office of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor Riley didn’t want to make the effort to raise the matching dollars and just sent it back.

Don’t forget, this recovery money can only be used for non-profits. To hell with helping any commercial parts of the art community that have suffered or are suffering. And, to top it off, this money has to be matched with other money and where will those non-profits look for help in raising that matching money? Why of course their favorite cash cow – the commercial sector of the art community. They’ll ask artists and galleries to donate works of art for auctions, frame shops to donate services, media to provide free promotion for such events. It’s usually the first place they go to raise funds. Corporate money for the arts has dried up. Matching free money is a bitch because you have to get someone to give you an equal amount, and that takes work. These people like free money. Wouldn’t you?

Of course $50 million is such a small amount of money to people in Washington that they didn’t put a lot of thought into what they were doing. Someone probably just suggested as they were writing up the massive bill – “What about the arts?” and they just relied on old habits of throwing them a bone and leaving it up to the NEA to do the right thing.

This is not the kind of change I was hoping for, but hopefully time will still provide that change from doing the same old, same old. Of course maybe Governor Sanford will tell the SC Arts Commission to send it back. Right!

Oh, and you folks in North Carolina – don’t laugh, your state arts agency will be getting a check too. And, it also will possibly go to the same folks who have already gotten funding from the NEA.