Tuesday, July 11, 2006

July 11, 2006


Table of Contents:

I. Arts Education Funding in California
II. House Arts Caucus now second largest in Congress
III. The Baby Boomer Courtship begins again
IV. Hessenius Group continues Milwaukee discussion of the future

"And the Beat goes on......................"

Hello Everybody.
Sorry I haven't put out the blog in a few weeks. Crazy June schedule.

I. $ 105 Million in California Budget for Arts Education
"After the thrill is gone........................."

Thanks to the hard work of a lot of people, next year's state budget in California includes $105 million (ongoing annual funding) for arts education, distributed on a per pupil basis across the state. Also included is a one time $500 million pool for supplies and equipment (this pool includes sports as well).

This is extraordinarily good news for the arts in California as it will theoretically allow for the re-establishment of arts education K-12 in the schools, which, in turn, is key to audience development, fundraising etc.

I have no doubt this is a political move by Governor Schwartznegger as he moves towards the center in his bid for re-election and his attempt to placate the education community he alienated in his attempt last year to pass certain ballot measures. The funding is part of the Department of Education budget and not the arts council.

And I have no problem with that whatsoever. Republicans and Democrats play the budgetary process political game every election; that's the system.

What bothers me is that there was no significant refunding of the California Arts Council budget, which the Governor could have easily done ($30 million - no more than "budget dust" in the overall scheme of things). One might legitimately ask the question: "What is the point of funding arts education if you aren't willing to insure that a healthy and vibrant arts infrastructure exists for students when they graduate?" And what bothers me most is that the Governor obviously did not see any political gain or advantage to refunding the Arts Council. He saw an advantage in funding arts education, but not the provision of arts - leaving one the inescapable conclusion that the arts simply aren't even in the political game, and that, as I have said countless times now, forebodes dire consequences to our field.

II. House Arts Caucus grows
"Everybody carrying signs, mostly say hooray for our side........."

At the Americans for the Arts convention last month in Milwaukee, Nina Ozlu presented a recap of national advocacy efforts, and noted that the House Arts Caucus is now up to 190 members and is the second largest caucus in the House. (The largest is the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus - a wildlife management focused interest group that welcomes hunter's as part of their membership).

The magic number for a House caucus is 218 (half of the 435 House membership plus one). The Arts Caucus is just 28 shy of this magic number that would make it's position a virtual lock. The caucus is bi-partisan and has support on both sides of the aisle.

It has been the organizing effort of Americans for the Arts and all of the thousands of arts people across the country that has saved the NEA and allowed its' budget to creep steadily upward from the nadir of the early 1990's. (Although to me, the budget for the NEA remains pitifully, embarassingly, and sadly grossly underfunded. It ought to be no less than $500 million - what we spend in just a few days in Iraq - but that's another subject.)

With the November election comes the possibility of reaching the magic 218 goal.

The Arts Action Fund is the only national PAC the arts have. It has already had phenomenal impact on raising the consciousness of the value of the arts with political candidates and demonstrating to them that the arts are moving towards being players on the political stage. (Most people labor under the false assumption that to be effective as a PAC, it needs to have a bottomless war chest of funds and distribute millions of dollars to candidates. Not true. Access and influence come from remarkably small contributions. Clearly the more funds you have, the greater power you can wield, but you can do quite a lot with only moderate funds. Besides, the arts ouoght to be able to raise huge amounts of money.) We have a chance in this election to build a foundation on which real progress can be made in arts support at the Federal level by expanding our political muscle. We need to be political and begin to demonstrate that there is political advantage in supporting the arts.

I am asking for your help. Please. Everybody who reads this should join the Arts Action Fund at the $20 level. (Surely we can each skip five latte's and invest in our own future). $20 - that's not that much is it? I know many, many of you have meant to join the Fund and somehow it just gets lost in your daily grind. But the election is in November. Please - join the Fund today. Let's begin to build a little political clout for ourselves. Click here - then double click on the join button: www.artsactionfund.org

Thank you. And pass the word to your people.

III. Boomers Again the "Belle of the Ball"
"Everybody's talking 'bout the New Kid in Town............."

As the 77 million baby boomers begin to retire, a massive courting of the darling generation of America begins anew. In the past month I have seen advertisements, television news pieces and articles in print about cities, companies and others beginning to actively court the boomers - to move to their cities, relocate to their towns, get this or that kind of help from this or that company. Everybody's recognizes that the boomers will redefine traditional American retirement and everybody wants a piece of the $2+ trillion dollars they control.

The arts have been the beneficiary of boomer support for some time, but I think there is a huge sector of the boomers that haven't supported us to any significant extent. As they retire, this segment may be candidates for our outreach, marketing and recruitment efforts. There are millions of well heeled boomers coming to retirement that haven't yet been big boosters of the arts that conceivably can be converted, and the potential of tapping into that market has profound implications for our audience development, advocacy, marketing and fundraising strategies on a broad, systemic basis, and we need to mount our collective skills and talents to maximize what we might get from our campaign with this group.

I was at Costco last week. I was looking at some product in one of the aisles, and two young boys, maybe fifteen years old or so, were walking down from the opposite direction. One of them was saying to the other one: "NO, you don't want that. That's just for OLD people." Then he looked up and saw me looking at him, and he said sheepishly: "Oops. SORRY." I had to smile. I don't feel "old" - but to those boys that's what they see. And that's all they see. An old guy. We all do that. If I asked myself what I saw, I would probably say: "A couple of kids." My point is that we can't do that when considering the opportunity of retiring boomers. And just as we tend to see people in one dimensional, simplistic terms, I think people see the arts in much the same way. Take Dance for example: huge segments of the public think of ballet in stereotypical ways - and we constantly have to overcome pre-set perceptions and deep rooted images. True for all the arts and art in general. In the 60's in Berkeley, we thought our generation would change the world. But the mistake we made was thinking our generation was monolithic - that we all believed the same thing. We didn't then, we don't now. Boomers are all over the map with scores of sub strata. But they also share some basic commonalities. We need to approach them - not simplistically but sophisticatedly. We need to know the sub strata - who do we target, where, when, how? Are we doing that? Can we delve that deeply? Do we have the capacity to do that?

What plan do we have to tap into the boomer retirement? What are we going to do that is different from what we have done? Will we be competitive in this new arena? (because it will be different than a decade ago, competition will be fierce and others have already developed sophisticated plans). I don't see a lot of systemic planning going on yet, and I think that puts us behind the curve already, and threatens our ability to capitalize on what will be the biggest re-direction of wealth in the history of the country. Should't we be having some national task force type discussion of this?

IV. Hessenius Group continues the discussion of the future
"In the long run.........................."

Beginning next Tuesday (July 18th), the Hessenius Group will continue the discussion began in Milwaukee about the "big" issues facing our field. The coming changes and trends in population shifts, economic changes, technological advances, global events that have local impact, redefining the organizational structure etc. etc. I hope as many of you as possible will be able to check in at the website (www.westaf.org/blog) sometime during the week to follow the discussion and add your own comments. We need to continue a national dialogue on these issues

Have a great week. And please, consider joining the Arts Action Fund right now.

Don't Quit