Sunday, July 18, 2010

TWO EXTRAORDINARY OPPORTUNITIES FOR CALIFORNIANS

Good morning.

“And the beat goes on……………………….”

Here are two GOLDEN opportunities - one for emerging leaders and one for all of us:

I. Emerging Leader Professional Development Funds Available:

You may have received an earlier announcement from The James Irvine Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Center for Cultural Innovation, asking for your assistance in getting emerging arts leaders to take an online survey that will help us all to understand the roles and needs of the next generation of arts leaders in California.

In addition to producing significant baseline data about younger arts professionals, individuals on your staff between the ages of 18 and 35 who complete the survey may also be eligible to apply for mini-grants up to $1,000 to help support the cost of attending workshops, conferences, hiring personal coaches and other professional development activities during the upcoming year.

I am informed that the process for applying and receiving these grants (in the next few months) will be very easy, involve minimal paperwork, and that there are significant funds in the pool – enough to make awards to a sizeable percentage of those that might apply. That means you have a very good chance of getting a grant. This is a real opportunity if you are an emerging leader to get funds to allow you to learn new skills and get professional development training that will enhance your career chances and empower you to be a better administrator / manager / leader.

Frankly, if you are an emerging arts leader, you would be crazy not to avail yourself of this gift. But you have to take this survey to be eligible to apply.

So if you have not done so already, I strongly suggest that emerging leaders 18 to 35 take the survey before it closes on July 31. And everyone should pass this on to anyone they know in our field in this group. Here is a link to the survey.

http://surveymonkey.com/s/NextGenArts

For further information on this survey and the statewide Next Gen Arts Initiative, please visit CCI's Creative Capacity Fund website at:   http://www.creativecapacityfund.org/


II. The California Arts License Plate Drive:

The California Arts Council, with broad based support from both the ‘for´ and nonprofit arts sectors, has launched a drive to sell one million vanity Arts license plates this year. If that goal were reached, it would raise some $40 million for the CAC – allowing it to finally climb out of the cellar in state per capita support for the arts and re-establish defunct, and launch new, programs of desperately needed grant support to arts organizations and artists all across the state.

Click here to order:  http://www.cac.ca.gov/licenseplate/index.php

While the Arts license plate climbed to the number one position in sales of all the vanity license plates available (near some 100,000 plates back when I was the Director of the CAC), this new goal is ambitious to be sure. Yet, there is no reason why it can’t be realized if the entire arts community will support it. I know some people have expressed concerns about the project, including the fear that this will end up the de facto way, and the only way, the state will support the arts in the future, and that it thus amounts to saying to the arts community that the only funding that should support the arts should be earned income and that money from the general fund should not be allocated to arts & culture – a stance many of us in the field are staunchly opposed to. I’ve heard others express the fear that even if we sold one million license plates, at some point the politicians would covet that pool of money and somehow manage to appropriate it back to the general fund – a move all too common during economic bad times.

Let me address these two concerns:

First, as to the license plate fund or any other earned income strategy replacing general fund allocation for support of arts & culture in California, given the dire economic situation we are in, and likely to remain in for some time, earned income, at least short term, may be the only viable option on the table to support the arts. We have to do what we have to do to survive. We really don’t have the luxury of standing on some principle, unwavering adherence to which might spell our own demise. We can always argue that certain general fund income (such as that resulting from the taxing of the sales of arts works) ought legitimately be (at least partly) allocated to support arts & culture, and we can even argue for allocation of new general fund sharing. Right now we need the money – any money. We need to keep artists working for real wages, we need to increase access to the arts for all segments of the population, we need to support arts education efforts, we need to nurture and facilitate creativity wherever and however we can, and we need to protect at least some of the ecosystem and infrastructure that we have crafted over the past decades. We need money to do that. And there is the distinct possibility that earned income may be the basis for future models of state (but perhaps not local and / or federal) funding for the arts across the whole country for some time to come. We can get creative with such a model, but short term we need to exploit whatever options can result in sustainable revenue streams.

Second, as to future Governors and Legislators playing their old tricks of appropriating pools of money earmarked for a specific purpose back to the general fund, there is less likelihood they will succeed in getting this license plate money back into the general fund because of the Franchise Tax Board’s ruling that the fees for purchase of the arts vanity plate constitute a charitable tax deduction. That ruling will make it difficult to re-characterize the fee as legitimate for re-appropriation back to the general fund – which most certainly is not a charitable enterprise, and should thus protect that fund for the arts. (Though we ought to be vigilant, because there is no guarantee any money is safe from a desperate Legislature and Governor – who may yet find a way to grab this cash).

So while there are legitimate concerns about the future of arts funding, that seems to me no reason to table this effort which the backers at the CAC have spent a lot of time, energy and the marshalling of diverse segments in support. It isn’t an ideal solution to our funding crisis, but it IS a viable, strong, smart plan and it can make a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives if everyone will just support it. Just think about that for a moment – even if this only raised $20 million dollars – that money would impact –directly and indirectly – tens of thousands of Californian’s lives – including a lot of working artists and a lot of the people who run arts organizations that are hurting. And it would re-establish a presence for state support for the arts and an opening to later argue for other kinds of things.

I strongly urge all of you to buy an Arts Vanity License Plate and to urge everyone on your staff, your board, artists with whom you work, your audiences and supporters and volunteers to do the same. The link to the site ought to be on every single arts organization website in the state, there ought to be cut out signs in the lobbies of every museum and performance venue, there ought to be a page insert in every program and a box mention in every newsletter – paper or electronic. There ought to also be a ten second announcement from the stage to every audience before every performance too. I hope the CAC will have some kind of thermometer gizmo on their website that will tell us all on a weekly or monthly basis how many more plates were sold, and how close we get to the one million mark.

Have a great week.

Don’t Quit.
Barry

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