Thursday, February 16, 2012

Misrepresenting the NEA

OK., this and this is making me angry. Listen, I am glad that the President has requested more money for the NEA -- not enough, of course, because we are so far behind the eight ball as far as inflation is concerned that we would need to about double the budget to catch up. But let that lay.

What is getting me angry is the presentation of NEA funding as being somehow focused on " small-town arts institutions that support culture for America's rural and suburban populations who, polling data suggests, tend to vote for the people who want to abolish the NEA." This is complete and utter nonsense.

Oh, sure, a couple small towns got some "Our Town" grants, but the lion's share -- indeed, a couple of lion's shares -- goes to the same urban centers and wealthy institutions as always. Narric Rome trumpets, "More than half of these [Our Town] grants were awarded to communities with a population of less than 200,000 and seven went to places with fewer than 25,000 people." But the fact is that 90% of American counties have populations under 200,000 and, in fact, 82% of them have populations under 100,000. I analyzed the "Our Town" grants here and here. Here are a few lowlights: 90% of the grants given went to counties with over 100,000 people in it. In fact, the average population of the counties funded was a bit more than 2.163 million people, and the median population was over 966,000. Of the grants funded, only two (Marfa TX and Sitka AK) could be classified as rural counties.  Further, as I wrote here, an "examination of the percentage of submitted grants that were actually funded in the last round of the Our Town program reveals that proposals from cities with populations over a million had a 100% acceptance rate, whereas those from cities under 100,000 had an acceptance rate of less than 40%."

As far as the argument that Shane Ferro makes as to why red states legislators ought to support the NEA, I made that argument in January 2011 when Rocco Landesman made his "supply and demand" comments at the Arena Stage convening. I said that the reason NEA grants (and other grants) should not be centralized in a few established institutions but rather spread geographically across America is that by not doing it, it makes it easier for those legislators to vote against NEA funding. But you can't make that argument until you have actually used funding fairly and equitably. It may be that the NEA would like to make this claim of geographical diversity -- I hope that is true -- but you can't make it yet. Nothing has changed yet. It is still a big city game.

The Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change report has thoroughly documented this in the philanthropy field, and have indicated that government funding follows the same pattern. Check out the finalists for "placemaking" grants at the ArtPlace if you want proof. ArtPlace is "an unprecedented private-public collaboration of nine of the nation’s top foundations, eight federal agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts, and six of the nation’s largest banks. ArtPlace supports creative placemaking with grants and loans, research and advocacy." I haven't even had time to look up the populations of each of these places, but it doesn't take a statistical genius to see that most of them are going to large urban areas. I'll highlight the ones that are clearly cities. Maybe Shane Ferro thinks anything that isn't Manhattan is rural and suburban.

HomerAKBunnell Street Art Center
AnchorageAKAnchorage Museum Association
JuneauAKJuneau Housing Trust, Inc.
SavoongaAKNative Village of Savoonga
SitkaAKAlaska Arts Southeast, Inc.
AnchorageAKAlaska Native Heritage Center
AnchorageAKOut North Contemporary Art House
Little RockARThe Oxford American Literary Project
PhoenixAZRoosevelt Row Community Development Corporation
Los AngelesCAThe New School
VariousCACreative Work Fund/Walter and Elise Haas Fund
Yolo CountyCAYolo County Arts Council dba YoloArts
San JoseCAMACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana
San FranciscoCASan Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association
San JoseCASan Jose Public Art
FresnoCAFresno Arts Council
Long BeachCAKhmer Arts Academy
Long BeachCAArts Council for Long Beach
Los AngelesCACity of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
Los AngelesCACornerstone Theater Company
Los AngelesCAEsperanza Community Housing Corporation
Los AngelesCALos Angeles Philharmonic Association
Los AngelesCAMachine Project
Los AngelesCAMASS Design Group
Los AngelesCAPerforming Arts Center of Los Angeles County
Los AngelesCASouthern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc)
ModestoCACalifornia State University, Stanislaus College of the Arts
OaklandCACity of Oakland Cultural Arts & Marketing 
RiversideCACity of Riverside – Development Department
San FranciscoCABurning Man Project
San FranciscoCAenvelope Architecture + Design (envelope a+d)
StocktonCAUniversity of the Pacific
VisaliaCAVisalia Arts Consortium (Arts Consortium)
Manitou SpringsCOBusiness of Art Center
New HavenCTArts Council of Greater New Haven
New HavenCTNew Haven International Festival of Arts & Ideas, Inc.
WashingtonDCWoolly Mammoth Theatre Company
MiamiFLWynwood Arts District Association, Inc.
MiamiFLBass Museum of Art
MiamiFLMiami Light Project, Inc.
JacksonvilleFLCity of Jacksonville Planning and Development Department
SumervilleGAChattooga County, Georgia
MaconGAThe Corporation of Mercer University
BoiseIDTrey McIntyre Project
ChicagoILHubbard Street Dance Chicago
ChicagoILRedmoon Theater
ChicagoILSteppenwolf Theatre Company
PeoriaILTri-County Regional Planning Commission
ChicagoILUniversity of Chicago
IndianapolisINHarrison Center for the Arts
IndianapolisINIndianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA)
WhitesburgKYAppalshop, Incorporated
CumberlandKYHigher Ground Coalition/The Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College
New OrleansLAArtspace
New OrleansLANew Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.
New OrleansLASt. Claude Main Street, Inc. (SCMS) and CivicCenter
ShreveportLAShreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC)
DorchesterMAThe Boston Foundation
Mount RainierMDJoe’s Movement Emporium
BaltimoreMDBaltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO)
Indian IslandMEMaine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA)
EastportMETides Institute & Museum of Art
VariousMIArtServe Michigan
FlintMIFlint Public Art Project
DetroitMILincoln Street Art Park
DetroitMIMarygrove College and Detroit Economic Growth Corporation
HamtramckMIPower House Productions
DetroitMIDetroit Institute of Arts
DetroitMIDetroit Creative Corridor Center
VariousMNAmerican Composers Forum
LanesboroMNLanesboro Arts Center
St. PaulMNEthnic Cultural Tourism Destinations Collaborative (ECTD)
St. PaulMNOrdway Center for the Performing Arts: 
St. PaulMNForecast Public Art
MinneapolisMNIntermedia Arts
MinneapolisMNJuxtapostion Arts
WadenaMNNew York Mills Regional Cultural Center
MinneapolisMNPangea World Theater
MinneapolisMNPillsbury House + Theatre (PH+T)
St. PaulMNPublic Art Saint Paul
MinneapolisMNThe Cedar Cultural Center, Inc
MinneapolisMNThe Gymnasium
MinneapolisMNWorld Savvy
MinneapolisMNNative American Community Development Institute
Chatham, Lee
Pitt Counties
NCRegional Technology Strategies, Inc. (RTS) and Public Art Collaborative Art-Force Program
RenoNVNevada Museum of Art
SyracuseNYNear West Side Initiative Inc.
New YorkNYBroadway Housing Communities
New YorkNYNOCD-NY (Naturally Occurring Cultural District Working Group)
New YorkNYNorthern Manhattan Arts Alliance, Inc. (NoMAA)
BrooklynNYPratt Institute
BronxNYWomen’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation
BronxNYCasita Maria Center for Arts and Eduction
BrooklynNYEl Puente
BrooklynNYMuseum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA)
BronxNYPregones Theater
BrooklynNYSt. Ann’s Warehouse
New YorkNYStorefront for Art and Architecture
BrooklynNYSTREB Inc.
CincinnatiOHAmerican Sign Museum
ClevelandOHNortheast Shores Development Corporation
PhiladelphiaPAAsian Arts Initiative
PhiladelphiaPACity of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy
PhiladelphiaPACommunity Design Collaborative
PhiladelphiaPAPhiladelphia Mural Arts Program
PhiladelphiaPAUniversity City District
ProvidenceRICommunity MusicWorks (CMW)
ProvidenceRIWaterFire Providence
Pine RidgeSDThe Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School
MemphisTNMemphis Symphony Orchestra, Inc. (MSO)
ChattanoogaTNGlass House Collective
MemphisTNBallet Memphis
MemphisTNCommunity L.I.F.T. / Memphis Music Magnet
AustinTXBig Medium
AustinTXDowntown Austin Alliance (Downtown Development Corporation)
AustinTXThe Trail Foundation
HoustonTXHouston Grand Opera Association, Inc.
SeattleWAWing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
Mineral PointWIShake Rag Alley Center for the Arts
Sauk CountyWIWormfarm Institute

I think the NEA ought to get more funding -- but not until it starts distributing it in a way that is focused on diversity of all kinds, including geographic diversity. I'd even go further: it is time for reparations, for making up for the decades in which the rural areas have been virtually ignored. But it certainly isn't time for people like Ferro and Rome to be taking credit for something that hasn't occurred yet.

Think Again: Funding and Budgets in the Arts

Every once in a while, I think I'll post a link or two to posts written earlier in the life of Theatre Ideas that seem worth revisiting ...