Friday, October 31, 2014
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
 

Should Arts Be Partially Self Sustaining?

Metrojacksonville takes a look at the idea of "Self Sustaining", Not-For-Profits in The Arts. In the current economic climate with budget cuts threatening to permanently shutter several local arts Organizations, is it time that the Arts Organizations started looking to this model of financing public culture? If they don't, what is the alternative?

Published December 30, 2010 in Culture      33 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

There is plenty of blame to go around in the recent budget Crisis.

The Governor, the tax system, the inefficient Stewardship of local funds, the reckless and somewhat shady practice of keeping local taxes low and relying on redistributed tax revenue from South Florida to fill in the gaps...the list really goes on and on.

In all previous budget crises the first ones pushed away from the public table are always the 'non essential services'.  This is translated in plain english as The Arts and Public Charity.

The economic downturn has seriously decreased the amount of revenue expected both from property and sales taxes, cutting off local coffers.

The crash of the markets and the cliff hanging performance of the past year in equities has left the traditional arts donors with not much left to give.

Added to that, the State passed property tax reform that sliced local revenues critically.



Naturally, billions of dollars of roadways will be built in Jacksonville, but apparently those funds are sacred and can't be converted into emergency funding for quality of life or public welfare needs.

So that leaves us at the familiar steps up to the funding gallows.

Under the Fix It Now proposal, libraries will be closed and last year, there were threats that the Ritz Theater would be locked up and dark.





Ritz Theatre.  The Last Standing Historic Black Theater.  Naturally It Will Be Closed First,

A few years ago, there was a significant divide in the traditional arts community and the young arts community of the early 90s, and nowhere were the differences of opinion so stark as on the issue of public grants and public funding.

The basic difference was that none of the Generation X artists and art entrepreneurs ever believed in or seriously sought public funding.  They also never believed that they would ever get a dime of the available grants or public sponsorships.

In this, they were largely correct.  There have been some that went on to successfully negotiate the grants/sponsorship world, Jennifer Chase, Sarah Crookes, George Kinghorn and Kezia Justice for example, but for the most part the entire generation has ended up having to find self funding ways to make a living in the Arts.

City of Expression, Movement Magazine, Dare Tabloid, Go Magazine, Heartworks Gallery, Gallery Contemporanea, The Lee Harvey Gallery, Czigan and Rummel, Al Letson, Karin Tucker and Barbara Sutton, The Jane Gray Gallery, Boomtown Theater, Alhambra Dinner Theater, Tommy Armageddon Prints, Burrobags, Fuel, Fusion, Midnight Espresso, DK Lucas, Blue Franswa, Tiffany Duhart and Immanual Washington, Steve Bailey, and a host of other independent art entreprenuers have led the way for the past 15 years of the citie's cultural life.


Boomtown Theater a private Dinner Theater in Springfield

One of the things that they all have in common is that they have been self supported Arts Venues.  None of them applied for or got a dime of public monies, and they had to find alternate ways of making a living.


For some, it was creating a hybrid business that tied an art form with a revenue source.  Fusion Cafe, Biscotti's and Fuel all combined the steady source of money coming from a restaurant while using their walls for some of the best gallery openings and private art shows of the past 20 years.

Boomtown, Alhambra Dinner Theater and a few others paired up food sales with theater performances.

The Arts publications learned to cover nightclubs and restaurants to insure advertising income while they covered the arts.

And the extremely respectable Spoken Word and Poetry Scene of Jacksonville was entirely sponsored (Floetry is the notable exception) by the commercial coffeehouses and nightclubs.

And despite the Public Funding that trickled into the larger, older arts community, many of the notable arts achievements of the past two decades came not from the Not-for-Profit world, but from the community of arts entreprenuers.   Al Letson relied on ticket sales in very bare spaces to propel his career to his Radio program on NPR, carving a respectable reputation as a playwright and placing in the National Slam Poetry competitions.



A handbill for Majigeen

Jennifer Chase produced one of the true genuine original hits of the past 20 years with her play, Majigeen detailing the life of Anna Kingsley by combining not-for-profit support in the privately owned Boomtown Theater.

Boomtown also hosted the first performances of the award winning playwright Caitlyn Parrish's "View From Tall" and "Red Clay"

Lee Harvey and several other of the areas more successful painters have never been shown in any of the local not-for-profit museums.

Anyways, the point is that anyone of the groups that had to make it on their own would jump at the chance to create their work in the facilities supported by tax monies, and have the life and business experience to actually use those facilities to turn a profit while continuing on with the core missions of the institutions.

This is not an idea that is confined to the limits of Jacksonville, btw.

Consider the following excerpt from Andrew Taylor of Arts Journal:

Quote
That phrase, 'a self sustaining, non-profit organization,' has been popping up in a lot of conversations I've heard lately, which raises a question: what exactly is a self-sustaining non-profit? Often, buried within the phrase is the unspoken assumption that earned revenue can somehow, someday meet expenses. That ticket income can match the cost of operations.

And yet, the entire purpose of cultural nonprofit organizations is to sustain, preserve, present, and explore forms of cultural expression that cannot be supported solely by the commercial marketplace. Instead, they rely on multiple markets, including individual donors, corporate funders, foundations, and government agencies. Organizations that can gather enough income from any or all of these sources (earned included) to cover annual operating expenses are, by my definition anyway, self-sustaining.

The problems of the Experience Music Project run deeper than expenses and revenues. These are symptoms of an organization that was a glorious dream of a single donor, and missed a few steps in connecting to a broader base of constituents, and determining its fundamental purpose. Given that EMP sits in a fabulously funky facility, and has an edgy content category (rock and roll), let's hope they spend some time on those things with the staff they have left.

Or check out the mission statement of ArtsBuild Initiative:  http://www.uwplatt.edu/cont_ed/artsbuild/tlkgPts.html

Quote
ArtsBuild: In 2004, the Office of Continuing Education (OCE) at UW-Platteville undertook a bold and innovative venture in support of rural artists in Southwest Wisconsin. Realizing that the arts are an untapped resource in the local economy, the OCE launched ArtsBuild to assist area artists in acquiring the skills they need to become entrepreneurs, thus helping to drive economic development in their communities. Initially supported through funding from a University of Wisconsin-Extension Continuing EDvantage grant, the program currently moves forward with financial support from the University of Wisconsin - Platteville and the Wisconsin Arts Board. The long-term funding goal for ArtsBuild is to transition from the grant funds that launched it to becoming a self-sustaining program.

Consider the amount of revenue available to an institution like the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.


Not only are there the ticket sales, but there is a virtually unlimited amount of intellectual property that is not being exploited.

One of the most popular types of performances that the Symphony has hosted is the live performance of soundtracks to famous black and white public domain films.

Where are the commercially available videos for this?  Why arent they for sale?  Why arent they on HULU, drawing advertising revenue for the Symphony?


An Imaginary Hulu broadcast of the Symphony, soundtracking a cartoon Phantom of the Opera

There is a tremendous amount of commercial soundtracking for commercial and motion picture use.  Why aren't the Not For Profits exploiting this market?

There is a pretty great market for performing for educational purposes.  DVDs, Product marketing, partnerships.

The intellectual property value of the sheer talent involved in the performance capabilities is formidable indeed.

Similarly with the Ritz Theater.  Jacksonville has a unique and gripping African American experience that has yet to be told or sold to the rest of the world.  Where are the coffee table books produced by the Museum?

Where are CDs and DVDs and educational programs being produced by the Museum>

Where is the all-vocal performance of  Jacksonvillian James Weldon Johnson's Lift Every Voice and Sing! by The Ritz Chamber Singers?



Where are the shared merchandising and ticket revenues from sponsoring hip hop shows? Where are the revenues from the acid jazz, and Soul Music Festivals in honor of the many talented Jacksonville artists who made their mark on music history?

These considerations are not lost on the younger arts community.

Perhaps its time to fundamentally reconsider how Arts are funded.

This is not to suggest an end to public subsidies, but it seems a sin that all of that potential revenue is simply ignored just because the taxpayers are already covering expenses.

By Stephen Dare









33 Comments

brainstormer

July 07, 2009, 05:50:52 PM
One must also consider that public money allows the average-joe to participate in symphony concerts and attend local museums.  If the symphony did not receive any money, I'm guessing ticket prices would be out of reach for many, including myself.  Why should only the rich enjoy good music?

stephendare

July 07, 2009, 06:15:38 PM
Actually, they would have to be competitive.  They couldnt just have a half empty auditorium and still get paid.

It changes your idea about whats a fair ticket price substantially.

mtraininjax

July 07, 2009, 09:44:39 PM
The graduations in the Arena would suffer, no, not that...we built the arena to cover graduations since the Florida Theatre could not handle them.....

stephendare

July 08, 2009, 12:54:41 PM
Another market that could be expanded.

TPC

July 08, 2009, 02:10:37 PM
Great article Stephen. You bring up some interesting points and pose some good questions.

blizz01

August 31, 2009, 01:31:10 PM
Sad headlines continue to mix with positive............

Alhambra Dinner Theatre closes

Quote
The Alhambra Dinner Theatre has suspended operations.

According to a phone message on the dinner theater’s main line, Alhambra management blames the economy for its closing.

“Every effort has been made to continue operations, but unfortunately, as has occurred with other similar businesses, the Alhambra has been a victim of these difficult economic times. Economic conditions over the past year have severely affected its attendance and its ability to adjust expenses.”

Established in 1967, the Alhambra is owned and operated by Tod Booth Productions Inc. According to the message the dinner theater on Beach Boulevard is the oldest of its kind in the nation.

The message states that management is continuing to explore other options, including negotiations with the dinner theater’s lenders and potential private investors, but for now it will remain closed.

http://jacksonville.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2009/08/31/daily7.html


stephendare

August 31, 2009, 01:39:18 PM
This is very sad.

I catered the 50th anniversary of the Barry Zisser and his wife, and they were instrumental to the founding of the Alhambra. 

Hopefully they will find the private capital to reopen.

Its just suspended at present.

brainstormer

September 06, 2009, 12:56:48 PM
I think part of Alhambra's problem was location.  The city has grown more and more away from that part of Beach Blvd.  Ask most people in Jacksonville where it was located and they wouldn't know.  But ask them where the Florida Theatre or Times Union is and they know.

ProjectMaximus

September 06, 2009, 03:46:12 PM
One must also consider that public money allows the average-joe to participate in symphony concerts and attend local museums.  If the symphony did not receive any money, I'm guessing ticket prices would be out of reach for many, including myself.  Why should only the rich enjoy good music?

Depends what you mean by private money. Symphonies like the JSO get very little subsidy from the govt. The greatest benefit they receive is the tax-exemption (which is significant, dont get me wrong). But it's people like you, who support the arts by making individual donations/contributions, that symphonies rely on to keep ticket prices relatively low for the general public.

Actually, they would have to be competitive.  They couldnt just have a half empty auditorium and still get paid.

not true in the case of the symphony. Probably the same for opera and ballet as well. I'm not privy to the JSO's financial books, but it's doubtful that revenue from ticket sales comprises more than 33% of the operating budget. Most money comes from corporate and individual contributions...actually, primarily individuals. Point is, if they sold every seat for every concert at their current prices, it wouldn't come close to matching costs, so lowering prices wouldn't help at all even if it sold more seats.

Your thoughts on alternative revenue sources are valid and one for the purists to debate. I'm somewhere in the middle, as I recognize that changing times require a change in philosophy.

stephendare

July 13, 2010, 07:43:43 AM
One of the things that they all have in common is that they have been self supported Arts Venues.  None of them applied for or got a dime of public monies, and they had to find alternate ways of making a living.

For some, it was creating a hybrid business that tied an art form with a revenue source.  Fusion Cafe, Biscotti's and Fuel all combined the steady source of money coming from a restaurant while using their walls for some of the best gallery openings and private art shows of the past 20 years.

Boomtown, Alhambra Dinner Theater and a few others paired up food sales with theater performances.

The Arts publications learned to cover nightclubs and restaurants to insure advertising income while they covered the arts.

And the extremely respectable Spoken Word and Poetry Scene of Jacksonville was entirely sponsored (Floetry is the notable exception) by the commercial coffeehouses and nightclubs.

And despite the Public Funding that trickled into the larger, older arts community, many of the notable arts achievements of the past two decades came not from the Not-for-Profit world, but from the community of arts entreprenuers.   Al Letson relied on ticket sales in very bare spaces to propel his career to his Radio program on NPR, carving a respectable reputation as a playwright and placing in the National Slam Poetry competitions.

hillary supporter

July 13, 2010, 08:00:47 AM
Quote
I think part of Alhambra's problem was location.  The city has grown more and more away from that part of Beach Blvd.  Ask most people in Jacksonville where it was located and they wouldn't know.  But ask them where the Florida Theatre or Times Union is and they know.
The Alhambras relocation downtown (in the Synder church) is just perfect! The church was the site of contemporary rock music two weekends ago that wasnt too sucessfull. These empty venues, manyactually controlled by the city, are a blessing for DT development and Jax met culture. Im going to Jim Draper  this am  and talk to him. Boomtowns theatre was great, but just couldnt handle the financial end (?) Can you come back on this Stephen?

stephendare

July 13, 2010, 08:19:13 AM
We were fine on the financial end, Hilary.

The problem for us was that we leased the properties.  In each of the locations that we opened, the property values immediately jumped.

We got great bargains because we opened in dead areas, and when we brought activity, both owners were immediately made offers quadrupling or quintupling what we were paying in rent.

For example.  When we rented the boomtown space on main, the previous tenants (abbas place, homeless ministry) were paying 750 per month.  From the same owner (Ricky Bateh) we rented the old Platinum Club, which had been paying him 1000 per month to run the topless bar/gambling/crack dealership.  In our leases, we ended up paying 3600 monthly for Boomtown and 2500 for Eden (the old Platinum Club) We had an option to purchase both buildings combined for 60 thousand.

John, Damon and I put in a couple of hundred thousand in repairs and renovations, and of course all the attention for the neighborhood started coming.

Ricky was made an offer for 250k for one of the buildings, and he immediately initiated eviction proceedings in order to void the lease (and option)  It was pretty egregious.

We ended up going to court with him for the remainder of our lease, repeatedly.  He kept losing, and almost every time we went to a hearing, he ended up having to pay us for damages.  He really was the worst slumlord of the area.

After our lease was over, he sold the buildings for 600 thousand (four hundred for boomtown, 200 for eden)

We moved downtown and leased the space in Hemming Park for 7k a month.

We were there for a year when the Dalton Agency offered a long term lease/purchase deal for the entire building for about 2 million to Robert Van Winkel.

We made a verbal deal with Robert that he initially welched on, and decided it would be cheaper to evict us than to pay out the agreed on amount, and we went to court.  In court, it became clear that his choices were incorrect, and they settled with John and I, paying us out for our lease and a few other good will incentives.  Robert, John and I remain friends to this day.

We actually did quite well, considering.  The perception otherwise was a deliberately false impression.

My partner John Allen and I went through some fairly dramatic changes in our personal lives.  Both my dad and my beloved La Mama died that year, and John went through some personal issues.  Boomtown has been on indefinite hiatus as a result of our personal lives.  It takes both of us to do it, and as it turns out, I rather like working for metrojacksonville.

stephendare

December 30, 2010, 10:20:03 AM
Should Arts Be Partially Self Sustaining?



Metrojacksonville takes a look at the idea of "Self Sustaining", Not-For-Profits in The Arts.

In the current economic climate with budget cuts threatening to permanently shutter several local arts Organizations, is it time that the Arts Organizations started looking to this model of financing public culture?

If they don't, what is the alternative?

Full Article
http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2009-jul-should-arts-be-partially-self-sustaining

Bativac

December 30, 2010, 11:06:55 AM
As a fairly young artist, I am not in favor of public money for art. My artistic and business partner and I applied for a couple public grants and were rejected -- in favor of the grants going to someone who needed to purchase a laser printer, or materials for their "public sculpture" project. (We were after money to have our children's books printed for distribution to local schools, Head Start programs, etc.)

So we went forward using our own money. I'm an illustrator and my partner is a poet. We've invested thousands of dollars into our projects and don't expect public money to fund any of it... nor, I think, do others of our generation (mid 20s - early 30s). We've spoken at schools, Head Start, local festivals, etc and have been moderately successful. Our mindset is that we must fend for ourselves or suffer failure.

Grants going to people who just want to "make art" may contribute something intangible to the culture, but it would make more financial sense for those monies to go towards artists who want to produce something that will generate income (and, thus, taxes). But it would make even more sense for that money to fund necessary social programs, i.e. local homeless shelter improvements, etc. It seems like too many artists who receive public grants are more interested in making some kind of personal statement than contributing something positive to the local community.

But I might be biased because I am an angry young man whose grant applications have all been rejected.

ChriswUfGator

December 30, 2010, 12:25:18 PM
As a fairly young artist, I am not in favor of public money for art. My artistic and business partner and I applied for a couple public grants and were rejected -- in favor of the grants going to someone who needed to purchase a laser printer, or materials for their "public sculpture" project. (We were after money to have our children's books printed for distribution to local schools, Head Start programs, etc.)

So we went forward using our own money. I'm an illustrator and my partner is a poet. We've invested thousands of dollars into our projects and don't expect public money to fund any of it... nor, I think, do others of our generation (mid 20s - early 30s). We've spoken at schools, Head Start, local festivals, etc and have been moderately successful. Our mindset is that we must fend for ourselves or suffer failure.

Grants going to people who just want to "make art" may contribute something intangible to the culture, but it would make more financial sense for those monies to go towards artists who want to produce something that will generate income (and, thus, taxes). But it would make even more sense for that money to fund necessary social programs, i.e. local homeless shelter improvements, etc. It seems like too many artists who receive public grants are more interested in making some kind of personal statement than contributing something positive to the local community.

But I might be biased because I am an angry young man whose grant applications have all been rejected.

Nah your observation is pretty valid.

Most of the public money winds up funding substandard product or poorly managed venues that couldn't compete in the general marketplace. Gone are the days when Diego Rivera is the artist hired to do murals in public buildings, nowadays and in Jacksonville at least it's all whoever's brother in law who's running the grant program that gets the money, or else it all goes to support crappy management decisions that take a venue that could really do something and make it into a cash drain.

Even the private money in this area is concerned with creating a testament to their own tastes rather than creating something actually intended to be enjoyed by the public. As nice as it undoubtedly was of the Haskells to make such a sacrifice by taking that giant tax deduction at the height of the art  and construction booms, the result is that now we have the official Rauschenberg museum here in Jacksonville. Except it was supposed to represent all modern art. Don't like Rauschenberg? Too bad! Guess you need to go make some dayum money and start your own museum.

Welcome to JAX! This was chriswufgator's intro to the Jacksonville art scene 101. That'll be $.50 pay on your way out.

P.S. I'm not against public funding for the arts, it's just so mismanaged here locally it causes more harm than good.

simms3

December 30, 2010, 12:39:07 PM
Good art should be able to attract investors and buyers.  No public money should be used.  I have to quote a famous Atlantan who is actually quite funny.  He is libertarian if you could not guess.

Quote
In the 1960s, shortly after the National Endowment of the Arts was formed, the sum of $750 was seized from some hapless wage earner and transferred to the account of a budding literary genius.  Now $750 (a few thousand in today's dollars) may not seem like much, but in the early 1960s this money could have solved a lot of problems --- or provided a lot of pleasure --- for the person who earned it.  But noooooooo.  The government needed it, because it had to underwrite some fool who wanted his magazine to publish this one word poem.

Are you ready?
Here's the poem:

Lighght

There, now, I've done everything I could to spruce up this work of art.  I centered it on the page for you.  I put it in a nifty little box with a nice border.  I even sprang a fancy typefface.  Do you feel enriched?  Enlightened?  More in touch with the inner you?

...

Believe it or not, "lighght" ---published in the Chicago Review in 1968---won Aram Saroyan the NEA poetry award and $750 in taxpayer money.  Saroyan later scammed another $1,500 from taxpayers when editor George Plimpton decoded to reprint it in the NEA-supported American Literary Anthology.

The money probably went to buy pot.  (Wait---that's no baseless charge.  A biography of Aram Saroyan at the University of Connecticut, where his papers are housed, notes that he smoked marijuana in the 1960s and never graduated from college).

Not everyone was pleased with this NEA grant.  When word got out about it, William Scherle, a Republican congressman from Iowa, demanded to know what "Lighght" meant.  Was it a typo?  A joke?  A con game?  "If my kid came home from school spelling like that, I would have stood him in the corner with a dunce cap," Scherle reportedly said.  When one of Scherle's assistants contacted the editor of Aermican Literary Anthology to ask what Saroyan's poem meant, however, he didn't get a straight answer.

"You are from the Midwest," Plimpton replied.  "You are culturally deprived, so you wouldn't understand it anyway."  Charming.  For what it's worth---and that's much less than $750 or $1,500---the question of the literary value of the one-word poem was eventually answered, in a way.  Saroyan himself tried to explain the seven letter word years later.  This alleged poet said by manipulating the spelling of "Light" to "Lighght," he found a way for his poem "to be, not mean."

Oh, yea.  Certainly clears it up for me.
He explained further:
"Part of the aim seems to have been to make this ineffable (light) into a thing, as it were---to change it from a verb (the agency of illumination) to a noun that yet radiates as light does.  The dougble ghgh seems to work in that way.

Aram, listen to me carefully and do exactly as I say.  Put the pipe down and back away slowly.

You know, now that I've been thinking about it, I'm an artist, too!  My art form is words!  I craft words into carefully constructed sentences and paragraphs designed to inform, amuse, outrage, infuriate, and obfuscate!  I'm only on about 200 hundred stations around the country.  That makes me feel like my art is being rejected.  I think I'll just go apply for an NEA grant for a few million to pay radio stations to take my show.  That's how Air America did it!  (Well...taking funds from Alzheimer's programs and Boys and Girls Clubs isn't exactly like applying for a federal grant, but they did have to pay radio stations to carry their programming).  Why sholdn't I give that a try?

...

Years ago, the Richard B. Russell Federal Office Building was built in Atlanta.  The taxpayers, of course, were forced to spend millions on ugly welfare art for the building.  One work of "art" consisted of a large torn piece of canvas with paint splattered all over it.  When contractors were doing the final cleanup, they came upon this work of art, mistook it for an old painter's drop cloth, and threw it in a Dumpster.  When the artist discovered his precious piece of work in the trash, he threw what only could be described as a "diva hissy fit."

To anyone who cared to listen, he complained that the people in charge of postconstruction cleanup---and most of the ordinary citizens out there---just weren't sophisticated enough to appreciate his artistic masertwork.

Me, I think the people of Atlanta are the smart ones: To this day, that piece of dog squeeze hanging on the wall of the Russell building is universally known as the "drop cloth."

Every time a politician votes to dump a load of taxpayer money into the artistic community, that politician is telling you and every other taxpayer that he believes it's more important for the government to subsidize an unmarketable artist than it is for you to spend your money on things you need---things like healthcare, home payments, debt reduction, and your children's education.  Unbridled arrogance.

And don't for a minute think the "Lighght" fiasco was an isolated incident.  Oh, no.  The NEA never fails to deliver.

Before we proceed, a warning: Some of the case studies that follow get pretty rough.  I'm trying to get you so steamed that you reach out to your elected officials and tell them that up with this you will not put.  These examples, grotesque as they may be, illustrate how little respect these welfare artists, and the politicians who pander to them, have for you and the hard work you put into earning a living---before they get a hold of it.

Here we go:

1)A grant of $30,000 to Philadelphia's Institute of Contemporary Art, sponsor of a traveling exhibition of photographs by the late Robert Mapplethorpe.  Termed "homoerotic," the pictures included graphic sexual images such as a self portrait of Mapplethorpe with a bullwhip sticking out of his you-know-what; a little girl with her skirt lifted to expose her genitals, and oh yes, an especially lovely photograph of a man urinating into another man's mouth.

2) A $75,000 grant to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, NC, for an exhibit by Andres Serrano that included a photograph titled "Piss Christ."  That's the now infamous photo of a plastic crucifix immersed in a jar of the artist's urine.

3) A grant to The Kitchen, a Manhattan theater, which sponsored a live performance by a porno star named Annie Sprinkle.  While masturbating on stage, the performer actually commented, "Usually I get paid a lot of money for this, but tonight it's government funded."

4) $70,000 for a show called "Degenerate with a Capital D."  This exhibit included the remains of "artist" Shawn Eichman's own aborted baby.

5) $127,000 in 1990 and $125,000 in 1989 to the Center on Puppetry Arts, which happened to feature a puppet show depicting oral sex between puppets.

6) $50,000 to Living Stage, which encouraged elementary schoolers to shout "Bullshit!" at the top of their lungs during a performance.

7) $20,000 to an arts festival that included a display of sex toys and Bibles, which subsequently were set ablaze.  The name of this one was "Bible Burn."  Nice.

8) $6,025 to Ann Wilchusky for "sculpting in place."  As a pilot, I was particularly interested in this one: To an artist, "sculpting in place" involved the refined art of throwing crepe paper out of an airplane.

9) Several grants to a theater in New York where one Johanna Went performed with giant tampons, satanic bunnies, three-foot feces, dildos, and a giant vagina headdress which she squeezed as white liquid gushed from her mouth.

10) $204,390 to the Franklin Furnace in New York, which put on a show featuring an 86 year old woman boasting of her sexual exploits, and one lesbian inserting her foot into another lesbian's vagina.

11) $40,000 to the Gay Sunshine Press to produce "alternative" publications, including illustrations of sex between men and animals.

...

I wonder if poor Aram Saroyan felt cheated?  After all, he only got $2,250 out of the NEA.

What's next?  What about a live production on the life of O.J. Simpson?  Now that the private sector isn't going to publish his book, perhaps he can apply for a government NEA grant.  I can picture the marquee now: If I Did It---The Musical!

...

There are some artists who've actually figured out a way to make you pay for their work without actually getting their hands on your tax money.  They force you to buy it with you own after-tax money!  That's the way it works in Naples, FL.  This artist money-grab was launched as the the "Percent for Art" plan, though the name was later changed to "Dollar for Art."  The plan here is to make real estate developers set aside one dollar for every square foot of new development to buy art.  This applies to any private project totaling at least $500,000, and to all city-construction projects.

The art has to be located on the site of the development, in full public view.  What's more, the artwork must go through a three step review process involving a Public Art Advisory Committee, a Design Review Board, and then the Naples City Council---two committees with no responsibility to the developer whatsoever, and then the local government.  And you know who ends up footing the bill, don't you?  Whoever buys the property.  What a deal!

Cows have three stomachs, which they use to turn grass into cow flops.  Now the City of Naples has a similar process---and I'm sure it will produce similar results.

The above long quote is a series of excerpts from the chapter "Shining a Light on Arts Funding" from Somebody's Gotta Say It, a book written in 2007 by Neal Boortz.  The quote can be found on pages 78-85.  His next chapter is titled: "The Louder the Commercial...The Dumber They Think You Are".  LoL  I recommend this book for anyone because it's actually quite funny and has a lot of info most people are sadly unaware of.

doctorwho3

December 30, 2010, 06:59:24 PM
I think that the arts are great.  As previously mentioned, without public support, things like JSO and museums would have ticket prices that are out of reach for many people, and sure, everyone should be able to enjoy them.  That being said, however, when we are in a major recession like this, it should not be encumbered upon tax payers who are having to cut back on their own expenses to support the arts.  If I decide I need to tighten my belt in order to meet day to day living expenses, the government should not force me to contribute to the arts through taxes.  Moreover, given the other shortfalls in the budget, I think there are other causes that take priority (such as education).  In economic times like these, we need to re-examine what we spend our money on.

sheets

January 02, 2011, 02:12:26 PM
The arts have always been partially self-sustaining because the amount of public funding provided for art in this country is so minuscule it has to be. But if we want art to take risks it has to be free from market pressures (or any pressure) to follow some formula for success. Art requires open-minded benefactors who provide freedom to the cultural producers.  This works better with an individual or small group of patrons.

Here is where public funding helps: it provides a level of cache to the artist/s or arts organization seeking funding from patrons. It is more attractive to an investor if an official granting agency has already approved of a project or artist.

Getting rid of public arts funding will do nothing to cut the budget. Its like improving ones sugar intake only by cutting out your daily tic-tac. And it most definitely would not lower our tax rates. But it has symbolic political weight to it among the libertarian set.

simms3

January 02, 2011, 02:25:20 PM
I think considering what projects the NEA has supported with taxpayer dollars, the controversy isn't over how much, but what.  Talented artists throughout history have always found backers/investors.  The federal government should not be called in to support controversial artists who can't find backers/investors on their own merit.

If an art collector wants to buy pieces like "Piss Christ" and "Bible Burn" and pay for pornos played like Broadways and dropping crepe paper from a plane and calling it art, and then later donate these "works" to a museum, then so be it.  I don't think your average taxpayer is comfortable allowing some of the money they earned to be taken to pay for controversial, "mind-expanding" art that somehow only the worthless artist finds valuable and significant.

Investors don't need to see the backing of a grant to see whether they want to invest in the art or not.  It has nothing to do with investors.  Public grants are often used for artists who can't find investors because their art is worthless and pointless.

MusicMan

January 02, 2011, 09:43:47 PM
I think public funding for the arts makes a lot of sense. What doesn't make sense is public funding for football stadiums. Or subsidizing
any "for profit" endeavor. The amount of taxpayer money devoted to the arts in this country is incredibly small. What you receive in return is quite large.

For instance, the NEA budget has never been more than 1 dollar per US citizen person annually, never. About 90 percent of that is paid to organizations who in turn pay modest salaries to artists who work in small organizations. Almost all of that money goes to pay rent/mortgages, car payments, college tuition, babysitters, groceries..... Incredibly efficient use of funds.

Now look at the typical stadium. Several hundred million taxpayer dollars, used about 15 times per year.  If NFL teams relied on stadium attendance /ticket sales to pay their players they would earn about the same as the symphony players, but with a much shorter season.  The stadium in Jax is a perfect example. It sits there from January til September, not creating jobs or increasing the tax base or anything.
In particular, this one has spurred absolutely zero new businesses in the immediate vacinity. And if the team ownership decides their best interest lies in moving the team to LA or some other place, well we can start having tractor pulls and rodeos in that stadium. YA HOO!!!!  Do you think
the ownership will offer a cash rebate if/when they leave?

Now back to the symphony folks. In every one of these organizations that I know of, and especially here in Jax, they give hundreds of free concerts all over town. At the Beach, Jazz Fest, ......  in schools, churches, synagogues, even the library. They even have open rehearsals a couple times a year where you can come in and quietly observe how the "art"
is put together.  An opportunity for every taxpayer in Duval to see and hear the orchestra for free.

Try that down at the stadium. Couple of free games sure would be nice.I mean, jeez, we bought them a $300 million dollar stadium????

simms3

January 02, 2011, 10:57:49 PM
^^^As I said before, money is not the issue, and yes, perhaps we need to revisit using taxpayer money for stadiums, too.  That being said, some crappy artist who can't sell his own work and needs public grants to do so contributes absolutely nothing to society (usually takes away from society with experimental and sometimes offensive artwork all for political ploys).  The stadium has helped put Jacksonville on the map and has provided a real economic benefit to the city.  Perhaps the Jaguars and everyone else who uses the stadium should pay for it completely, but that stadium is used for more than just Jaguars games.  Far more people benefit from the Jags stadium than some crappy artist who relies on public funds because he can't sell his own art on its own merit.  San Francisco did not use any taxpayer money for their newest ballpark.

The Symphony is actually good.  Fabio Mechetti has a great reputation.  The JSO is run really well, promotes itself well (those free concerts are great promotion), and so it is able to attract donors and people are happy to pay to see a concert.  It has taken public monies before, and perhaps not to be hypocritical to my view it shouldn't have, but just like the Jags, if the JSO were on the verge of shutting down, enough people see the value there to come rescue it.  The JSO also produces real art.  Look at some of my examples above of NEA funded art.  Those are just some of many many examples of horrid, offensive "art" that is nothing more than a political message meant to enflame.  If there is a market for that crap, so be it, but most taxpayers do not want their money, $0.10 of it or $10 of it, to go to "Piss Christ."  I'm sure if the NEA or other public grants only funded symphonies, great art museums, etc, people would have far less a problem with them, but that's not the case.

stephendare

January 02, 2011, 11:14:29 PM
simms.

Try not to be so indoctrinated all the time. Aside from the fact that Boortz is so blisteringly dumb that he crosses over into offensively stupid more times than not, He is also factually incorrect and merely repeating the hysteria campaign started by Al D'Amato and Jesse Helms back in the late 80s.

It was part of the "Culture Wars", which luckily you are too young to have had to pay attention to.  The entire era was as head bangingly irritating as listening to a West Virginian Tea Bagger explain the Federal Reserve and the Soveriegn Citizen Movement.  

Piss Christ was an andre serrano peice that he created more than two decades ago, and it led to needless defundings by the likes of Jesse Helms and the moral majority crowd.  Robert Mapplethorpe wasnt significant because of his sexualized photos, he had pioneered a reputation on the basis of his stunning florals.  The NEA wasn't 'funding' either of these peices, or even those particular artists or that genre.  Its ridiculous to claim otherwise.

Here is the photo:



It wasnt 'funded' by the NEA.  It was part of a competition that received a small percentage of grant money from the NEA.  It wasnt like the NEA had reviewed the work and decided to give money to sponsor the work.  The NEA gave the money to an organization, and that organization went on to sponsor a competition, and Serrano placed in the competition with an entire series of photos, amongst them the controversial one.
http://books.google.com/books?id=9viccUYUSVYC&pg=PA100&dq=serrano+piss+christ+yellow+liquid&hl=en#v=onepage&q=serrano%20piss%20christ%20yellow%20liquid&f=false


There is plenty of material on the web to research before you make these well meaning but madly misinformed claims.

Here is the wikipedia article on Mapplethorpe:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Mapplethorpe

Quote
In June 1989, pop artist Lowell Blair Nesbitt became involved with a scandal involving Mapplethorpe's work. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. had agreed to host a traveling solo exhibit of Mapplethorpe's works, without making a stipulation as to what type of subject matter would be used. Mapplethorpe decided to show a new series that he had explored shortly before his death, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment curated by Janet Kardon of the Institute of Contemporary Art.[12] The hierarchy of the Corcoran and several members of Congress were horrified when the works were revealed to them, and the museum refused to go forth with the exhibit. It was at this time that Nesbitt, a long-time friend of Mapplethorpe, revealed that he had a $1.5 million bequest to the museum in his will. Nesbitt publicly promised that if the museum refused to host the exhibition he would revoke his bequest. The Corcoran refused and Nesbitt bequeathed the money to the Phillips Collection instead.

After the Corcoran refused the Mapplethorpe exhibition, the underwriters of the exhibition went to the nonprofit Washington Project for the Arts,[13] which showed the controversial images in its own space from July 21 - August 13, 1989, to large crowds.

Here is an example of the Black and White florals that he had actually been famous for before the controversial show:

stephendare

January 02, 2011, 11:23:56 PM
Another great Mapplethorpe photo of the type that he was known for before the show.



simms3

January 03, 2011, 12:02:26 AM
Why does the NEA need to support these works with our money?  I'm not "being indoctinated" and actually Boortz explained how the money first filtered into organizations/publications before being distributed.  Why can't galleries or museums or organizations receive funding from private donors to buy this artwork?  Why do we all have to contribute a couple bucks to the NEA to pick winners and losers in the art world?  Why does Mapplethorpe vary from photos of Lilies and Irises to photos of a man urinating into another man's mouth?  What's his theme?  Why do you automatically dismiss someone like Neal Boortz as being blisteringly dumb and offensively stupid?  He wrote nothing factually incorrect and all of his information is sourced.  If you call it a culture war to be offended that taxpayer money somehow supported some of that crap and still does to this day, then I guess I'm part of that "Culture War".  I know plenty of artists who wouldn't fall for that crap.

Even your own article clearly states that the NEA permitted grants that at least partially supported the development and exhibition of "Piss Christ."  I am a Christian, so yes, the work is not only not artistic to me unless it's purpose was to enflame (for which it was very successful), but insulting.  He could have done anything else in the world and he chose to put a crucifix with Jesus in a jar of his own piss and take an artistically good photo of it.  He could have captured a good photo of literally anything else.  I highly doubt artistic thoughts were in Serrano's mind when creating "Piss Christ."  I would bet that he was excited to create controversy and piss on Christ (literally).

sheets

January 03, 2011, 12:33:15 AM
If simms can cite 11 cultural incidents (most of which are described in overly simplified terms and are in fact important works and institutions) to justify ending public funding of the arts can I cite the thousands of innocent people killed by US bombing raids to justify defunding the military? Just wondering, since such a huge portion of my taxes goes to stuff like that and all.

Dont worry simms, the NEA no longer grants funds directly to individual artists, and funding committees are so risk averse in order to avoid controversy, there will never be a publicly funded "piss christ" ever again (even tangentially). Your outrage is about 20 years too late, which is what Stephen alluded to. Next issue.

Singejoufflue

January 03, 2011, 12:39:39 AM
IMO, arts funding should be left to private investors but government (federal, state or local) should make no limits on its appreciation in the way of museums, etc.  It is much too subjective to be viewed objectively for grants, but should be funded as part of a well-rounded education, both hands-on and academic (art history, music theory, etc).

stephendare

January 03, 2011, 07:19:38 AM
Why does the NEA need to support these works with our money?  I'm not "being indoctinated" and actually Boortz explained how the money first filtered into organizations/publications before being distributed.  Why can't galleries or museums or organizations receive funding from private donors to buy this artwork?  Why do we all have to contribute a couple bucks to the NEA to pick winners and losers in the art world?  Why does Mapplethorpe vary from photos of Lilies and Irises to photos of a man urinating into another man's mouth?  What's his theme?  Why do you automatically dismiss someone like Neal Boortz as being blisteringly dumb and offensively stupid?  He wrote nothing factually incorrect and all of his information is sourced.  If you call it a culture war to be offended that taxpayer money somehow supported some of that crap and still does to this day, then I guess I'm part of that "Culture War".  I know plenty of artists who wouldn't fall for that crap.

Even your own article clearly states that the NEA permitted grants that at least partially supported the development and exhibition of "Piss Christ."  I am a Christian, so yes, the work is not only not artistic to me unless it's purpose was to enflame (for which it was very successful), but insulting.  He could have done anything else in the world and he chose to put a crucifix with Jesus in a jar of his own piss and take an artistically good photo of it.  He could have captured a good photo of literally anything else.  I highly doubt artistic thoughts were in Serrano's mind when creating "Piss Christ."  I would bet that he was excited to create controversy and piss on Christ (literally).

I don't out of hand dismiss boortz as being dumb.  Listened to his radio show for a couple of years, and hes just painfully, thuddingly stupid.  And hes not smart enough to even qualify for disingenuous.

NEA grants didnt fund any particular work, they funded organizations which disbursed the money across the united states.  Its like blaming the FDOT because granny can't drive.  They just create infrastructure.

And if you are that easily offended (by anything) my friend, then I am afraid that you might have missed the actual beliefs behind Christianity.  I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for never having engaged in the phony "political correctness is destroying the country" discourse, simms, because normally this is where I would point out the contrast and hypocrisy.  You however, are a pretty consistent person when it comes to these issues, and I for one appreciate that about you.

I wish I liked Serrano's work (I don't find it all that interesting or contributive, never have) but I do like the public infrastructure that arts funding provides for artists.  The money is negligible, the end results are huge.

But it is philosophically disingenuous to criticize infrastructure for random individuals.

I don't like drunk driving, but Im not reckless enough to suggest that its time to tear up all roads as a result of it.  I think that faux wood panelled station wagons are an offense to God, and a pollution of the senses, but I wont suggest that Grand Avenue be closed until the last one of them is destroyed.  I also think SUVs are helping to destroy the planet each mile that they consume 12 gallons of gas, but you won't hear me demanding the immediate removal of US 17.

And thats actually what Boortz and D'Amato were demanding with these phony "The NEA funded .......(insert outrage) !!!!!"

civil42806

January 03, 2011, 08:26:23 AM
simms.

Try not to be so indoctrinated all the time. Aside from the fact that Boortz is so blisteringly dumb that he crosses over into offensively stupid more times than not, He is also factually incorrect and merely repeating the hysteria campaign started by Al D'Amato and Jesse Helms back in the late 80s.

It was part of the "Culture Wars", which luckily you are too young to have had to pay attention to.  The entire era was as head bangingly irritating as listening to a West Virginian Tea Bagger explain the Federal Reserve and the Soveriegn Citizen Movement. 

Piss Christ was an andre serrano peice that he created more than two decades ago, and it led to needless defundings by the likes of Jesse Helms and the moral majority crowd.  Robert Mapplethorpe wasnt significant because of his sexualized photos, he had pioneered a reputation on the basis of his stunning florals.  The NEA wasn't 'funding' either of these peices, or even those particular artists or that genre.  Its ridiculous to claim otherwise.

Here is the photo:



It wasnt 'funded' by the NEA.  It was part of a competition that received a small percentage of grant money from the NEA.  It wasnt like the NEA had reviewed the work and decided to give money to sponsor the work.  The NEA gave the money to an organization, and that organization went on to sponsor a competition, and Serrano placed in the competition with an entire series of photos, amongst them the controversial one.
http://books.google.com/books?id=9viccUYUSVYC&pg=PA100&dq=serrano+piss+christ+yellow+liquid&hl=en#v=onepage&q=serrano%20piss%20christ%20yellow%20liquid&f=false


There is plenty of material on the web to research before you make these well meaning but madly misinformed claims.

Here is the wikipedia article on Mapplethorpe:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Mapplethorpe

Quote
In June 1989, pop artist Lowell Blair Nesbitt became involved with a scandal involving Mapplethorpe's work. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. had agreed to host a traveling solo exhibit of Mapplethorpe's works, without making a stipulation as to what type of subject matter would be used. Mapplethorpe decided to show a new series that he had explored shortly before his death, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment curated by Janet Kardon of the Institute of Contemporary Art.[12] The hierarchy of the Corcoran and several members of Congress were horrified when the works were revealed to them, and the museum refused to go forth with the exhibit. It was at this time that Nesbitt, a long-time friend of Mapplethorpe, revealed that he had a $1.5 million bequest to the museum in his will. Nesbitt publicly promised that if the museum refused to host the exhibition he would revoke his bequest. The Corcoran refused and Nesbitt bequeathed the money to the Phillips Collection instead.

After the Corcoran refused the Mapplethorpe exhibition, the underwriters of the exhibition went to the nonprofit Washington Project for the Arts,[13] which showed the controversial images in its own space from July 21 - August 13, 1989, to large crowds.

Here is an example of the Black and White florals that he had actually been famous for before the controversial show:



Does anyone remember the "burning the koran" thread and the passionate arguments  to please respect everyones religion .  Whatever happened to that guy? 

stephendare

January 03, 2011, 08:31:33 AM
where do you see a conflict in any of my statements?

RiversideLoki

February 03, 2011, 07:53:02 AM
Artists themselves (if they're talented enough) can be self sustaining. However, the arts as a whole need to be advocated for on behalf of the public. Funding of artistic programs, galleries, and symphonies is absolutely essential if for nothing else than advertising revenue.

There's a reason that they call them "starving artists". Because some frequently are. This may be because they're just not good at marketing themselves, or they aren't sure HOW to market themselves, or their art is so out there that they haven't found their niche yet. (I don't think I'll ever say someone's art sucks again in my life btw. All art is subjective. I've seen some weeeirrrdd stuff in my time that people have paid thousands of dollars for that leave me scratching my head.)

I will say this from my experience at the gallery I used to be a part of, working with artists and coalescing them into a coherent group of people working together for a common goal is like herding cats. Artists have egos, are hard to work with, and can generally be a pain in the a-double-s. But that's because they're creatives.

It takes a brave person to advocate on the behalf of the artist community.

stephendare

February 03, 2011, 07:55:58 AM
There was a period in the history of literature when people produced pieces of literature just for the sake of enjoyment and their creative satisfaction.This was known as "Art for art's sake".When they could do it in that age, why can't we do it now?Art can sustain by itself if the artist is loyal towards his work and indulges in it for his personal pleasure not for appreciation.

Do tell us more about this age of privately produced free literature.

ChriswUfGator

February 04, 2011, 05:49:32 PM
There was a period in the history of literature when people produced pieces of literature just for the sake of enjoyment and their creative satisfaction.This was known as "Art for art's sake".When they could do it in that age, why can't we do it now?Art can sustain by itself if the artist is loyal towards his work and indulges in it for his personal pleasure not for appreciation.

When was this?

tayana42

February 24, 2011, 01:40:17 PM
From Simms3
"The above long quote is a series of excerpts from the chapter "Shining a Light on Arts Funding" from Somebody's Gotta Say It, a book written in 2007 by Neal Boortz." 


Per Wikipedia:  "Boortz went on to write speeches for the segregationist Governor of Georgia, Lester Maddox."  Tells you just about all you need to know about art critic Boortz.

View forum thread
Welcome Guest. You must be logged in to comment on this story.

What are the benefits of having a MetroJacksonville.com account?
  • Share your opinion by posting comments on stories that interest you.
  • Stay up to date on all of the latest issues affecting your neighborhood.
  • Create a network of friends working towards a better Jacksonville.
Register now
Already have an account? Login now to comment.