Posts Tagged ‘Canvas of the People 2010’

SC Arts Commission’s Canvas of the People Grand Tour is Over – Now What?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

OK, the seven public gatherings of the Canvas of the People 2010 have taken place – plus one special, unannounced, gathering at the recent Arts Alliance Board meeting, and the private gatherings held with community and business leaders in several, if not all the original seven locations – before the general public gathered. Why some folks couldn’t participate like the rest of us in a public forum – I don’t know, but it fits the pattern of secrecy conducted by the Arts Commission. It’s always about not telling the whole story – holding back information.


We’ve had our say on what’s working in the arts, what our challenges are, and what opportunities lie ahead, but what now?

Of course if you didn’t show up, you can probably still participate by doing the online Canvas survey. Here’s the link ( You can also see what others said throughout SC at this link as well – see listings on the left of the page. Of course you won’t see any comments from the private gathering.

We’re not told much about what happens now, but my guess is someone will sort through all the comments in the three categories and pull them together in some kind of report and then distribute that report or at least make it available as a download on the Arts Commission’s website. There you go – problems solved.

Of course we were told at each of the gatherings that this plan for the next ten years was a plan for us – not the Arts Commission – they’ll be doing that later, on their own – behind closed doors.

My guess is that this plan will look a lot like the previous plans – except for the pleas for more funding from somewhere – which doesn’t exist.

So all the calls for working together will fade and the dog eat dog scramble for a bigger slice of the funding pie will resume amongst the non-profits and not much will change.

We’re already seeing the “too big to fail” factor being floated by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and its supporters (a shrinking number), which has been in financial trouble for ten years, and continues to rob funding from the greater Charleston art community. Giving money to the Orchestra is like stealing funding from the fiscally responsible to give it to the fiscally irresponsible. But the cry to save the “artistic soul of Charleston” drones on at the expense of the other worthy art groups.

From all my years of experience and attending the Canvas of the People process – my advice to the people who attended these meetings is to forget about having the Arts Commission lead you around by the nose and schedule more gatherings of the art community in your area, on a regular basis, for a longer period of time, and work on your own challenges and opportunities. Follow through on what you come up with and you’ll get a lot further along than worrying about the size of the pie you’ll get from the Arts Commission. Who knows your community and its resources better than you?

In my opinion, more would be accomplished if members of the art community gathered at a local watering hole on a regular basis and discussed issues over a few drinks than attending these Canvas gatherings – there will be more pressure to monitor the follow-through on ideas and plans – more accountability. Our art communities don’t need more art walks – they need art talks once a month.

I went to a few of the Canvas gatherings to observe and make a plea for the non-profits to work with the commercial side of the art community – not just look at us as a source for funding and handouts. I also asked why commercial businesses in the arts, who support individual artists, help build audiences, promote the arts, and support the community with taxes – can’t share in applying for funding from the Arts Commission. Some of our ideas might be better that those proposed by some non-profits and might pay off better for the overall art community and community in general. Most of us live in a world where if you can’t pay your bills, you’re out of business – not begging the community for another chance to get your act together. Reality for us is the bottom line and we don’t enter into risky ventures, knowing there is always another funding cycle around the corner. Yet, in our case, when Carolina Arts got into financial troubles when the economy collapsed, we made cuts to the bone, took on personal debt, and we reached out to followers and people responded and helped us survive, but there was no chance for public support – none at all.

So, I hope there are not a lot of folks out there waiting for this final report from the Canvas of the People 2010 to solve their problems. There will be a few who do that, but they are going to be disappointed. Waiting for funding, much less more funding from the SC Arts Commission is futile as long as the State of South Carolina continues to have budget shortfalls. At some point, someone in the SC Legislature is going to be asking – do we need to pay for this big fat bureaucracy of a state agency – why don’t we give our money directly to the counties to decide where it should go in their art communities? At that point, non-profits will discover a pie that is not already half eaten by the time they get to it.