WBEZ | NEA http://www.wbez.org/tags/nea Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Daily Rehearsal: ComedySportz Chicago wins 2012 ComedySportz World Championship http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/daily-rehearsal-comedysportz-chicago-wins-2012-comedysportz-world <p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/daily-rehearsal-more-shakespeare-parks-100302">More</a> Shakespeare in the parks</strong></span></span>: Midsommer Flight, a new theatre group, will be doing free (donations happily accepted) productions this August. They are, unsurprisingly, doing <em>A Midsummer Night&#39;s Dream </em>as their first show.&nbsp;It&#39;s up August 18-19, 25-26 at Touhy Park.&nbsp;<a href="http://midsommerflight.wordpress.com/">Their website</a> is very green, much like the parks. There is a band and picnics are encouraged.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/comedysportz.jpg" style="height: 198px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="" /><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- ComedySportz Chicago</strong></span></span> repped their city and won the <a href="http://www.25yearz.com">ComedySportz World Championship</a>; the Downtown Chicago Bosses beat Los Angeles 26 to 12. They&#39;ll be celebrating this weekend and you can be there too.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Deanna Isaacs has an interesting take on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/daily-rehearsal-diane-lane-shine-her-star-chicago-100930">the NEA grant</a></strong></span></span><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/daily-rehearsal-diane-lane-shine-her-star-chicago-100930"> given to fund Writers&#39; Theatre&#39;s</a> new location in Glencoe; she&#39;s curious about the choice to better this already very wealthy community. &quot;Has anyone from the NEA ever been to Glencoe?,&quot; <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2012/07/16/the-nea-comes-to-glencoes-aid">Isaacs asks</a>. &quot;Because if the &#39;quality of life&#39; gets any better there, the whole village will just have to leave planet Earth behind and ascend to heaven.&quot; However, an anonymous commenter feels differently: &quot;Writers&#39; Theatre&#39;s new space will help communities outside of Glencoe, the artists who work at the theatre (who are not Glencoe millionaires), not to mention the incredible educational outreach that the company brings to under-served student communities all over the Chicago area. Furthermore, any national spotlight and aide to any of our arts organizations helps to promote the entire Chicago artistic community,&quot; EES wrote.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>-&nbsp;Cirque du Soleil&#39;s </strong></span></span><em><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>Michael Jackson</strong></span></span>: The Immortal World Tour </em><a href="http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/unscripted-blog/15507816/cirque-du-soleils-michael-jackson-the-immortal-world-tour-keep">looked</a> pretty big and beautiful this weekend; who saw it?</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Mon, 23 Jul 2012 09:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/daily-rehearsal-comedysportz-chicago-wins-2012-comedysportz-world Pot pourri: The NEA, tax credits (more) and other stuff http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-09/pot-pourri-nea-tax-credits-more-and-other-stuff-97134 <p><p>Seems as if I just finished reporting the Congressional stupidities over 2012 funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (after 10 months of delays and dithering, Congress approved precisely what President Obama had requested) and now here we are again, with the White House budget proposals for Fiscal 2013.</p><p>The President has proposed $154 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which would be a badly-needed increase of $8 million from the Fiscal 2012 figure of $146 million. Both years' figures are substantially below the $168 million of FY 2010, which was the biggest NEA budget in over 20 years (but not an all-time high). If approved at $154 million, Federal funding for the arts would be just fifty cents per capita, among the lowest rates of support in the developed world. The White House also has requested $154 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities.</p><p>Last year, in what has become an annual event, Congressional conservatives proposed various amendments to drastically slash the NEA budget or eliminate the agency altogether. What was a different is that Republicans in the House joined most Democrats in defeating such proposals after an outpouring of public support. As this year is both a Congressional and a Presidential election year, we might actually have a budget sooner rather than later, so that members of the House and Senate can get out and politick about who's to blame for it.</p><p>Last week I wrote about the new Illinois law providing tax credits for Broadway shows playing here, each of which must receive "an accredited theater production certificate" from the state. A few of you asked, "What the hell is that?" And I wondered myself. So, here's the deal.</p><p>The live theater program is run through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and has an annual cap of $2 million in tax credits it may award (that is, $2 million in taxes that aren't collected). A production company may use this credit against its state income tax liability equal to 20% of the production's Illinois labor costs and 20% of the company's Illinois production spending. The production must spend a minimum of $100,000 in Chicago, it must play a venue of at least 1,200 seats and it must be a show that either will appear on Broadway within 12 months of its Chicago run, or will play Chicago for more than eight weeks. No doubt the State of Illinois will have some mid-level DCEO bureaucrat earning a six-figure salary overseeing the rules and granting the accredited production certificates.</p><p>Several shows coming this calendar year are taking advantage of the program. <em>Jersey Boys</em>, returning to Chicago for the third time, will play the Bank of America Theatre for nine weeks (April 5-June 2). In October, the same theater will host the pre-Broadway try-out of <em>Kinky Boots</em>, a musical based on the Brit film, featuring Cyndi Lauper hit songs and starring Lauper herself. Finally, the Tony Award winning musical, <em>The Book of Mormon</em>, will open at the Bank of American Theatre for a run of at least three months. Next year probably will see double that number, including at least one other pre-Broadway show.</p><p>Every now-and-then a brave theater troupe in town takes a crack at producing two or more shows in rotating rep. We have three such examples in the coming weeks, or two-and-a-half depending on whether you count the two parts of Tony Kushner's <em>Angels in America</em> as one play or two. Whichever, Court Theatre is offering Part I, <em>Millennium Approaches</em>, and Part II, <em>Perestroika</em>, in rep March 30-June 3. On select days you'll be able to see both parts. FYI: this will be the first production of Kushner's newly-revised version of <em>Perestroika</em>.</p><p>Days later, the Striding Lion Performance Group offers two world premiere dance theater works in rep, both featuring "historically and geographically inspired choreography" by company artistic director Anne Beserra. The two works are <em>The Jenkins Farm Project</em>, based on Besarra's own family's rural history, and <em>Remember the . . . (Alamo),</em> the resonance of which should be obvious. Striding Lion performs at The Viaduct, April 19-29.</p><p>Finally, Chicago Folks Operetta offers new translations of two forgotten operettas from the Viennese tradition, Emmerich Kalman's <em>The Circus Princess</em> (not seen locally in 85 years) and Eduard Kunneke's <em>The Cousin from Nowhere</em>. Although just a few years old, Chicago Folks Operetta has been receiving high marks from critics for its enterprising repertory and solid musical values. The two <em>schlag-acious</em> works will be performed June 8-July 1 at the Chopin Theatre.</p><p>"The time has come, the Walrus said, "to speak of many things; Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings; And why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings."</p></p> Fri, 09 Mar 2012 21:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-09/pot-pourri-nea-tax-credits-more-and-other-stuff-97134 NEA 2012 budget finalized . . . at last http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-19/nea-2012-budget-finalized-last-95029 <p><p>Well, after 10 months of dickering the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) finally has a budget for Fiscal 2012, which began quite some time ago. Of course, the NEA isn’t any different than any other Federal department, bureau or agency, all of which have been waiting for Congress to get the job done for cryin’ out loud! For the record, the NEA is a very, very tiny part of the Department of the Interior.</p><p>So the House of Representatives slashed $11 million from President Obama’s proposal for the NEA, and the Senate put it back and added $9 million more. As finally worked out in conference, neither the House nor the Senate scores points: the NEA is receiving $146 million for Fiscal 2012 . . . which is precisely what President Obama proposed in the first place last February. I figure Congress has wasted at least that much in wrangling over the budget.</p><p>For arts advocates, that $146 million is a mixed blessing. It represents a substantial reduction from the $155 million of Fiscal 2011 and a very large reduction from the $167 million approved in 2010, which was the first Obama budget and the highest NEA funding in over 20 years.</p><p>&nbsp;On the other hand, times are tough (hey, times always are tough for the arts) and no one seriously was calling for zeroing out the NEA completely. Yes, there were a few ardent Tea Baggers in the House saying that the NEA should be killed, but their proposals were voted down in committee by their fellow Republicans.</p><p>The final budget agreement includes $24 million for Arts in Education, a program of the Department of Education which the House repeatedly has tried to kill, but which has managed to survive at an extremely modest level. How modest? Well, let’s do the math: the NEA is funded at approximately $.50 per capita while Arts in Education is funded at $.12 per capita. And you wonder why so many Americans are culturally ignorant.</p><p>So how will the NEA spend its money? First, $44.1 million will be passed through to state arts agencies, such as the Illinois Arts Council, and to other state and regional partnerships. Then, $66.2 million will fund the NEA’s own grant-making to hundreds of non-profit cultural organizations, each of which goes through a rigorous application process. The NEA will spend $28 million on salaries and expenses and $2.8 million in “program support efforts” (hey, I don’t know what that means, either, but I’ll trust the NEA to spend it wisely sooner than I’d trust the Pentagon). The final $5 million is for a new initiative, dubbed <em>Our Town</em> like the play, which helps seed community infrastructure developments which include cultural facilities.</p><p>The National Endowment for the Humanities also received $146 million.</p></p> Mon, 19 Dec 2011 20:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-19/nea-2012-budget-finalized-last-95029 Weighing the supply and demand of arts collaboration http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-08/weighing-supply-and-demand-arts-collaboration-93773 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-07/RogersPark.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-07/RogersPark.jpg" style="width: 414px; height: 243px;" title="BOHO Theater in the Glenwood Avenue Arts District. "></p><p>Thanks to <a href="http://www.thomascott.com/">Thomas Cott of <em>You’ve Cott Mail</em></a> for highlighting <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20111030/ARTS/310309981">this article in <em>Crain’s New York Business</em></a> about the value of collaboration among small arts organizations as typified by the <a href="http://www.nyc-arts.org/organizations/view/id/2531">Lower Manhattan Arts League</a>.</p><blockquote><p>The league — which includes small groups like Access Theater and larger organizations such as Dance New Amsterdam and the Children’s Museum of the Arts — has monthly meetings where constituents help each other with everything from fundraising to legal advice. The groups have created a downtown cultural festival, which they produce in the fall and spring. The members even apply for some grants as one entity and lobby the city government as a pack. Individually, some members with budgets as small as $100,000 are barely on funders’ radar, but as a group the members generate around $14 million in economic activity per year and employ roughly 1,200 people full- and part-time. After years when none of the groups were able to score a grant from American Express, for example, the consortium applied together in 2009 and was awarded $100,000. They divvied up the money according to the size of each budget.</p></blockquote><p>While the cheery tone of the article elides some of the serious difficulties arts organizations face in aligning their missions and needs with one another, the point is nonetheless well-taken: organizations too small to get attention on their own may be big enough when combined with others to secure foundation funding and government cooperation.</p><p>Such collaborations also serve as living ripostes to the chronic funder complaint that the supply of arts organizations exceeds the demand for them: if these disparate groups can work together without cannibalizing their audiences or funding, they must not be duplicating each other’s work.&nbsp; And if the experiences of the Glenwood Avenue Arts District companies, or those involved in the North Shore consortium of theaters, is anything to go by, collaboration can actually increase demand.&nbsp; Just as restaurants generate other restaurants generate restaurant districts generate restaurant traffic, so with theaters.</p><p>The error of the supply-and-demanders (I'm looking at you, <a href="http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/36871/its-time-to-prune-the-arts-says-embattled-nea-head-rocco-landesman/">Rocco Landesman</a>) is to assume that demand for the arts is somehow fixed.&nbsp; In fact, demand can be grown, and collaboration is a superb way to grow it. The Chicago theater community has thrived precisely because there are so many theaters, and because they're willing to work together to a greater or lesser extent.&nbsp;</p><p>Here's a thought experiment: it's 1969, and the Goodman is the only theater in town. I propose to start a new theater and someone of Rocco's ilk says, "But don't you see?&nbsp; That will only divide the audience, leaving the Goodman with half as much. That would be terrible!"&nbsp; Fortunately, even if there was someone there to say it, no one at Steppenwolf or Victory Gardens or the Organic or the Body Politic paid any attention, and that's why Chicago is a theater center today.</p><p>The moral? Beware of arts administrators bearing rules of economics: econ is a lot more complicated than they understand, and its outcomes a lot less predictable. One more reason for the people who want to make art to do so and leave economic concerns to the pundits.</p></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 14:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-08/weighing-supply-and-demand-arts-collaboration-93773 State of the arts: The NEA reports http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-31/state-arts-nea-reports-93627 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-31/deeplyrooted.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Turns out not every artist is starving. But it’s official: dancers are not only barefoot, they’re poor and female. At least on average, compared to other artists.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-31/deeplyrooted.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 280px; height: 350px; " title="Deeply Rooted Productions, appearing Dec. 9 at the Harris"><a href="http://www.nea.gov/news/news11/Research-Note-105.html">The National Endowment for the Arts just released a report</a>, <em>Artists and Arts Workers in the United States</em>, that tracks the demographics of 11 arts types (including actors and musicians as well as dancers), comparing them to one another as well as the rest of the U.S. workforce. Derived from data collected between 2005 and 2010, the NEA’s survey follows up on a 2008 report covering the years from 2000 to 2005.</p><p>Since 2002, labor force growth among artists has lagged behind that of the general workforce.</p><p>But the money for artists in general doesn’t look half bad, perhaps because the 2011 report includes designers (40 percent of the arts workforce) and architects (10 percent). Artists’ annual median wage/salary is $43,230, compared to $39,280 for the U.S. labor force overall.</p><p>It's $27,392, however, for the average dancer, choreographer, and/or dance teacher. The only artists who make less are photographers, at $26,875, and “other entertainers”—magicians, showgirls—at $25,363.</p><p>Dancers form the smallest of the 11 groups (1.3 percent of the arts workforce) but are at the top of the list in several categories.</p><p>Dancers include the largest percentage of racial and ethnic minority members—by far—at 41 percent. The next group after them is “other entertainers” at 27.7 percent. The national labor force’s percentage of minorities is 31.7 percent.</p><p>Dancers also show the smallest numbers for having a bachelor’s degree (26 percent) and are the youngest group, with a median age of 25. Because dancers have such a short shelf life, many don’t go to college, at least at normal college age, and are relatively uneducated by the time they get out of the biz at 30, or whenever it is that their bodies wear out.</p><p>And dancers are overwhelmingly female: 78 percent are women. The only other arts groups in which women are the majority of the workforce are writers, 56 percent female, and designers, 54 percent.&nbsp;</p><p>There are no figures on the rates of pregnancy among working dancers. But I’m guessing that percentage, at least, is small.</p></p> Mon, 31 Oct 2011 14:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-31/state-arts-nea-reports-93627 A case for government funding of the arts, part 2 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-23/case-government-funding-arts-part-2-90906 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-August/2011-08-23/flickr theater umtad.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-23/flickr theater umtad.jpg" style="margin: 7px; float: right; width: 280px; height: 187px;" title="(Flickr/University of Minnesota Theatre Arts &amp; Dance)">In response to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-16/case-government-funding-arts-part-1-90649">my blog last week</a>, "A Case for Government Funding of the Arts, Part 1," several readers posted comments which decried any connection between the arts and government, even calling for the disestablishment of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).</p><p>These comments — which I expected — were posted by individuals who claimed to be ardent arts supporters, if not artists themselves. They were passionate yet intelligent statements that completely missed the point.</p><p>Here is the point: Whether artists like it or not, there ALWAYS has been interaction and interface between government and the arts, and there always will be. As a class of the governed, artists can choose to be part of the dialogue with those who govern, or artists can turn their backs and suffer the consequences of not representing their own interests in places of power. At present in the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts is the best seat at the table that artists have.</p><p>Since the arts emerged in prehistoric primitive cultures, they've always had a social obligation to interpret the spiritual and secular worlds in which they exist. The plays of ancient Greece, especially the comedies, were expected to comment on political policies and governance. The history plays of Shakespeare legitimized the Tudor monarchy. The triumphs of Renaissance religious art glorified the business (Christianity) of the boss (the Pope). The music of Mozart or Hadyn added sophistication and status to the courts of the monarchs who paid for it. In the modern era, Communist governments have poured tons of money into the arts in order to earn international prestige and provide a facade of humanism for often-repressive regimes.</p><p>The arts represent national prestige and national culture and usually prove to be more powerful as a legacy to the world than vast armed forces and territorial conquest. Virtually alone among developed nations, the United States mostly ignored the arts in any national or Federal sense until the NEA was established in 1965.</p><p>Now, artists always have been suspicious or fearful of government and rightly so. Where politics and the arts meet, there often has been censorship or attempted censorship. But the NEA was designed to minimize that possibility and largely has succeeded for two reasons: our Federal government cannot censor the arts, nor does it throw enough money at the arts to control them.</p><p>Thanks to the First Amendment, no elected or appointed official can tell an artist what he can or cannot express (short of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater). If Congress or an administration is unhappy with the arts, all it can do is withdraw or reduce what little funding it provides, and this step has been taken several times.</p><p>The real magic, of course, is that it's not enough money to make a difference. A well-managed non-profit theater company, dance troupe, museum or arts academy will never depend on government funding for more than 5% of its total budget. But that 5% loosens the purse strings of far more generous foundation, corporate and individual donors who want to see that little statement: "Supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts." An NEA grant has become an imprimatur. It signals other potential funders that arts organization A or B or C meets certain standards of quality, innovation and business-like operation.</p><p>Some artists hate that part, too, believing that NEA bureaucrats decide which art is worthy and which is not, but that's not how it works. The NEA is organized around a system of peer review panels. For example, grants for non-profit theater companies aren't determined by full-time NEA employees but by a panel of artistic directors and managing directors assembled to review all grant applications in that category. They will come from theaters which are not themselves competing for money in that particular grant cycle. Museum grants will be reviewed by museum executives and curators, and so on.</p><p>These professionals work with sincere dedication to do the most with taxpayer resources. I know, because I've been an NEA panelist. In my case, we had 34 applications seeking $17.5 million in grants, but we only had $3.5 million to give out. We met for 12 hours a day over three hot, humid June days in Washington, D.C. in the NEA quarters in the Old Post Office Building. The air conditioning was shut off at 5 p.m., but we worked until 8:30 or 9 p.m. each night.</p><p>Our process determined that 31 of the 34 applications were worthy of support, so we prioritized them to receive a share of the $3.5 million. At the top of the list, a little-known institution requesting $20,000 received $17,500, the largest grant by percentage. At the bottom, a number of institutions received so-called entry level grants (which have varied yearly between $3,000 and $5,000). In between, several famous behemoth arts organizations requesting $350,000 received $150,000.</p><p>The work was hard and mentally demanding. For our labors, we panelists were flown to Washington economy class, put up in a modest hotel for three nights and given an honorarium of $150. We paid for our own meals. The vast bulk of NEA money goes to arts organizations and state arts agencies and not to bureaucracy, which is why I said last week that the NEA is a model of how a government agency should be run.</p><p>As modest as the NEA budget is, it provides an opportunity for artists to appear before Congress each year in a public forum to advocate on behalf of the arts, and to put elected officials on notice that culture matters. Even more, regional and national arts advocacy groups have sprung up to create an arts lobby at the Federal level and in statehouses, too.</p><p>Is the NEA ideal? No. Might there be better ways to fund the arts and protect them from censorship? Yes, but we don't have them and we probably won't get them. This is why the NEA is the best seat the arts have at the political table.</p><p>In its 46 year history, the NEA never has received more than $176 million, a mere 1/10,000th of the Federal budget at that time (the late 1980's). The same dollars today would be an even more infinitesimal fraction of the budget and purchase less. But the NEA hasn't received that much in over 20 years. The Obama request for Fiscal 2012 is $146 million, of which the House of Representatives has approved $135 million. The final number remains to be worked out between the Senate and the House.</p><p>The good news is that the Republican-controlled House has soundly rejected several Republican-sponsored proposals this summer to kill the NEA outright. Even GOPers seem to "get it" about the NEA and the arts, at least for the time being.<br> Now, if only all my blog readers — and my colleague Kelly Kleiman —&nbsp;got it, too!</p></p> Tue, 23 Aug 2011 13:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-23/case-government-funding-arts-part-2-90906 A case for government funding of the arts, part 1 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-16/case-government-funding-arts-part-1-90649 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-August/2011-08-17/Edward Hopper Project_Flickr_Sarah Ji.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-17/Edward Hopper Project_Flickr_Sarah Ji.JPG" title="(Flickr/Sarah Ji)" width="500" height="332"></p><p>Those familiar with my postings may know that I am a proponent of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). I endorse its mission and its work, and I firmly believe that the federal government (not to mention state and local governments) should support the arts in a material way.</p><p>There are people of intelligence and goodwill who hold the opposite view; who believe government at all levels should withdraw its direct and indirect support for the arts, minimal as that support is. For them—and perhaps for you—I offer this rationale:</p><p>Governments, nations and societies are not remembered for their leaders, or for battles lost or won. For better or for worse, they are remembered for the culture they create and leave as a legacy for the world.</p><p>Everyone knows who Aristotle and Plato and Sophocles were, but few could tell you who headed the government of Athens when those great thinkers and writers lived and worked.</p><p>Everyone knows Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, but few could tell you what Pope commissioned the work.</p><p>Everyone knows Mozart, but few can name the Austrian emperors who reigned during his lifetime.</p><p>And practically every American teen can tell you who Lucille Ball and Elvis Presley were, but very few can tell you who Dwight Eisenhower was.</p><p>Given the fact that artists and works of art achieve iconic status far more often than political leaders, it's astonishing that so little attention is paid to the arts and culture, at least in the United States. Of course, many artists and their supporters probably prefer it that way, arguing that coercion and outright censorship are inevitable when government supports the arts.</p><p>Indeed, the track record of smothering intellectual and expressive freedom is nearly as old as expression itself. When Athens was in decline, it began to censor theater.</p><p>Shakespeare's history plays indirectly flatter the Tudor dynasty of Queen Elizabeth I. King Louis XIV prohibited public performances of Moliere's Tartuffe until Moliere rewrote the ending. Stalinism crushed Shostakovich. In the Untied States, the tremendously influential (still) Federal Theater Project of the 1930's lasted only 18 months before conservatives in Congress killed it.</p><p>But there is a big, big difference between the USA and the examples I've cited of other eras and other nations, and that difference is this: First Amendment protections mean the government in the United States does not have the power or the legal authority to censor art (at least not at present).&nbsp; The only constitutionally approved means through which government can limit art is by limiting - or withdrawing - government funding. The Federal Theater Project could not be censored, so it was murdered.</p><p>When the National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, it was set up to be free of programmatic oversight by Congress precisely to avoid the threat of political coercion, and that policy has worked every bit as well as had been hoped. Still, just as with the Federal Theater Project, Congress could vote to kill the National Endowment for the Arts outright. Over the last 20 years, the NEA has survived a dozen conservative onslaughts in Congress attempting to dissolve it completely, although the NEA has had to endure huge funding cuts of more than 50 percent.</p><p>It seems that some members of Congress fear the marketplace of ideas, artistic expression and creative innovation precisely because they can't control them. At worst that's a form of fascistic thinking, and reason enough in my mind to support the NEA. At very best, it's using personal values to assess the arts, by which some members of Congress confuse personal morality with public policy.</p><p>There are plenty of other reasons to favor the NEA, beginning with the fact that it's a tremendously efficient and modestly-run agency; a model for a federal bureaucracy. Even in its fattest days, back in the 1980s and very early 1990s, the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts was only 1/10,000 of annual Federal expenditures.&nbsp; Today it's far less than that.</p><p>Even more, the NEA funnels 50 percent of its money directly to state arts agencies (by congressional mandate), thereby allowing local standards and selection criteria to prevail (I'm not sure everyone in Congress understands this part). Also, the NEA primes the pump for private giving to the arts by individuals, foundations and corporations in amounts which dwarf the NEA's own budget by thousands of times. I doubt that can be said of any other federal agency.</p><p>More about how the NEA works — from an insider's perspective — next week.</p></p> Tue, 16 Aug 2011 15:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-16/case-government-funding-arts-part-1-90649 NEA sends $2 million-plus to Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-28/nea-sends-2-million-plus-chicago-88480 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-20/56592092.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-20/56592092.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 277px; margin: 10px; float: left;" title="A National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Induction (Getty/Paul Hawthorne)">Even as Congress and the White House tussle over a Fiscal 2012 budget, the National Endowment for the Arts has spent the last of its Fiscal 2011 cash in a series of grants announced last month in which a number of Chicago organizations picked up federal bucks.</p><p>Chicago theater industry recipients are (in alphabetical order): Barrel of Monkeys Productions ($8,000), Chicago Children's Theatre ($20,000), Chicago Shakespeare Theater ($75,000), Child's Play Touring Theatre ($20,000), Goodman Theatre ($100,000), Emerald City Theatre Company ($10,000), League of Chicago Theatres Foundation ($10,000), Light Opera Works ($20,000), Redmoon Theatre ($50,000), Storycatchers Theatre ($7,000) and Trap Door Productions ($5,000).</p><p>In addition, another 33 NEA grants went to institutions supporting music, dance, traditional arts, presenting and arts education ranging from the American Library Association ($20,000) to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ($20,000) to the Jazz Institute of Chicago ($20,000) to the River North Dance Company ($10,000) and Sones de Mexico Ensemble ($35,000). Even the City of Chicago got some NEA cash, with a grant of $75,000 to the Chicago Cultural Center Foundation, a last legacy of the old Department of Cultural Affairs and its former Commissioner, Lois Weisberg.</p><p>In all, Illinois organizations received 43 grants totaling $2,280,400.</p><p>Meanwhile, the annual battle over the Federal budget is just heating up with the Federal government staying in business on a continuing resolution as Congress and the Prez go down to the wire on a budget deal that will raise the debt ceiling and cut spending. Already, however, Arts in Education has been axed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. On May 26, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved a resolution to cut 43 programs from the Department of Education, with Arts in Education among them. Collectively, these programs were part of the so-called "No Child Left Behind" Act, and funding for them could be restored--and that's a big "could"--when the full House and Senate take up re-authorizing "No Child Left Behind."</p><p>In better news, the House rejected Republican-sponsored resolutions to zero-fund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and heard prepared testimony May DATE from Rocco Landesman, chairman of the NEA, in support of President Obama's request for $146.25 million for the NEA in Fiscal 2012 (which officially begins July 1). That figure represents a 13% cut in the 2011 budget, or the same funding as in 2008. The NEA is prepared to live with that and tighten its belt, in part by consolidating administrative functions with the NEH wherever possible.</p><p>The proposed 2012 Obama budget wasn't all bad news for arts and culture: the request for the National Gallery of Art was $119 million, up from $111 million, and the request for the Smithsonian Institution was $636 million for operations plus $225 million for capital projects, some of which will flow to art museums such as the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City.</p><p>In its May round of grants, the NEA announced $914,400 for the Illinois Arts Council, the highest-ever level of NEA support. As mandated by Congress, the NEA must pass along a substantial part of its annual budget in the form of direct support for state arts agencies.</p><p>The Fiscal 2012 proposal for the Illinois Arts Council (IAC) itself is $11.4 million, up from $9.3 million last year. Of course, given the ocean of red ink the State faces, it's anyone's guess if that level of support will hold up in the final Illinois budget.</p><p>Alas, the arts always make an attractive and easy target for budget-cutters who fail to comprehend the economic impact of the arts collectively as an industry. Just days ago, Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Council, killing the 45-year old agency. The cash savings to Kansas tax payers? $689,000 representing .005% of the state's budget. The cash loss to Kansas tax payers? The NEA pass-through which would have been $778,200 plus another $437,800 in matching funds from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. That $1.2 million now will go to other states.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jun 2011 22:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-28/nea-sends-2-million-plus-chicago-88480 Child ticket: Approximately $5. Seeing live theater? Priceless http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-06/child-ticket-approximately-5-seeing-live-theater-priceless-84822 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-06/wilbur1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-06/wilbur1.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 404px;" title=""></p><p>One audience member threw up. Others made purely recreational trips to the bathroom. Eager-beaver volunteers sometimes had to be physically returned to their seats—or retrieved from the stage.</p><p>Controversy over the arts, how to pay for them and whether they’re worth the price, may be rampant. But the children at two <a href="http://www.oldtownschool.org/fieldtrips/">Old Town School of Folk Music Field Trip shows</a> this week—<a href="http://www.kidworkstheatre.org/">Kidswork Touring Theatre</a> on Monday (repeats April 26) and <a href="http://www.cptt.org/">Child’s Play Touring Theatre</a> yesterday—only knew they were having a great time. Go ahead and laugh at the over-the-topness of children’s theater, but at its best, everyone gets caught up in the frenzy.</p><p>And kids learn at these shows—important in our bean-counting times. Kidswork accentuated the positive in “Peace Tales From Around the World,” which had about 400 schoolchildren from 5 to 13 (most from LaSalle Language Academy) giggling, pointing, and squealing, oblivious to the fact they were learning about the continent that gave birth to the human race, cruel dictators, respectful treatment of women, and the importance of self-sacrifice for the greater good. Hey, when the Comanche rain dance finally succeeded, all they knew was that they were being showered with real water from a giant spray bottle. Of the two groups, Kidswork was the more participatory and physical, giving the entire audience lots to do: everyone bowed respectfully or supplicated the gods, while a chosen few got to be camels, parts of a dragon, or an oppressed peasantry.</p><p>Child’s Play, performing for an audience ranging from pre- to slightly post-kindergarten, was more word-oriented in “Animal Tales and Dinosaur Scales.” This troupe specializes in bringing children’s writing to the stage in sketches and songs; “Animal Tales” accentuates the negative—fears of monsters, the dentist, sharks—to make it go away. When one actor announced she was going into the deep, dark woods and proceeded up an aisle to a blank rear wall, dozens of heads turned to see the scary forest.</p><p>There’s a lot of talk about arts education, about the usually unspecified value of nurturing creativity in children and the opposing need to tighten our belts. Nick Rabkin, a researcher for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, recently <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-24/report-connects-dots-between-arts-education-and-future-arts-attendance-8">coauthored a report on the role arts education plays in arts participation</a>—and no surprise, it’s a big one. (Also not surprising: an overall decline in arts education in schools <a href="http://www.artsjournal.com/dewey21c/2011/03/arts-particpation-draft.html">hits African-American and Hispanic children hardest.</a>)</p><p>Just a few months ago, in January, <a href="http://www.arts.gov/artworks/?p=5402">National Endowment for the Arts chair Rocco Landesman made a plea for enhanced arts education</a> (and concomitant cuts in the “oversupply” of arts organizations). But given his history as a Broadway producer, his emphasis on the usefulness of technology, however trendy, is surprising. And suspect. Though he cites an NEA report showing that arts consumers via the Internet and electronic media are nearly three times as likely to attend live arts events, my guess is that the correlation in consumption is more about income and education than about being drawn to the arts through a screen.</p><p>Two things about the OTSFM kids’ shows: Audiences had immediate, virtually unanimous responses to what they were watching. More important, their responses were validated by everyone in the theater: other children, their teachers, the actors onstage—the community at this show. It may be hard to quantify the gains from seeing live theater. But if we choose to ignore them, everyone will lose.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/7wZorJMPyRE" title="YouTube video player" width="480" frameborder="0" height="390"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 06 Apr 2011 16:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-06/child-ticket-approximately-5-seeing-live-theater-priceless-84822