Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Help for arts organizations in crisis

Heard about this on NPR today, and also got an email about it from the Music Librarian's Association listserve. I'm glad the Kennedy Center is stepping up to help arts organizations, because in our current economic climate, trying to convince either government or individuals that the arts are worthy of help is next to impossible. I'm sure the Republicans who are stonewalling the stimulus package have raised lots of fuss over the proposal to increase funds for the NEA, for example, even though such increases account for a tiny percentage of the overall funds.

Here are some examples of organizations in crisis:

"Indeed, organizations from almost every part of the country have reported belt-tightening measures or worse. The Baltimore Opera Company filed for bankruptcy, the Seattle Repertory Theatre asked its staff to take two weeks of unpaid leave, and the Orlando Ballet
cut live music for The Nutcracker so the dance troupe wouldn't be reduced." (N.B.-The Oregon Ballet Theatre did likewise this past December, without consulting its music director first, I might add, thereby cutting the orchestra's income by approximately half, and with no notice).

"Organizations that have endowments have seen them cut by one-third," said Kennedy Center president Michael M. Kaiser, who is the author of The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations. "In cities like Detroit that are so dependent on the auto industry, the money is gone. Foundations are forced to cut back, and individuals have seen their wealth reduced."

Historically, Portland has never had a huge pool of private wealth to draw upon, nor do we have a lot of large Fortune 500 type corporations who have the funds to donate to the arts in sufficient amounts to keep performing organizations afloat during tough times. We may not be Detroit, but we're hurting too, and the fact that our civic image is of progressive tech-savvy people further masks how little public and private money there actually is to keep our arts alive and kicking. Thanks, Kennedy Center, for stepping up to help.

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