Sunday, May 16, 2010


Good morning.

“And the beat goes on…………………………..”


I wrote a blog entry a few weeks ago, questioning what Kal Penn Modi, the White House liaison to the arts (among other of his charges), had done to reach out to the nonprofit arts sector during his term in office (after nearly a year in his current position, Mr. Modi is returning to the private sector).

I heard that Mr. Modi thought my characterization of his efforts was inaccurate and even unfair. My intent in writing that blog wasn’t to disparage Mr. Modi, but to ask what had been accomplished. It wasn’t meant as any personal criticism, nor did I mean to be disrespectful. I wasn’t criticizing Mr. Modi but was interested in what he had done as White House liaison to the arts.

I am fairly well connected and in the loop (though not nearly as well as many others), and, as stated in the blog piece, I was (and am) not familiar with what efforts Mr. Modi had made. I didn’t see any press releases, or other blogs, or any kind of media coverage of his work, and that is what prompted me to wonder what his office had been doing and whether or not his principal charge lie with other constituencies. I am delighted that somehow someone in the White House may have actually read something I wrote in a blog, though I take no pleasure if anyone was offended.

Now sometimes (perhaps many times) I get it wrong. When that happens, I have always thought the only thing to do is say you got it wrong and correct the error to the extent you can, and apologize if appropriate. So, to the extent I got this wrong, and my piece was inaccurate and perceived as unfair, I stand corrected and offer my apology to Mr. Modi and to his office.

I have learned that Mr. Modi did indeed hold numerous meetings with arts leaders in our field, including Bob Lynch at Americans for the Arts and Sandra Gibson at APAP – among many other outreach efforts. He also had regular interaction with the federal arts agencies including the NEA and the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities. I am glad to know that. I only wish he or his office had made those outreach efforts and conversations more public and shared with our field his and the White House’s intentions, interests, strategies and hopes for those efforts. To the extent his conversations with arts leaders, and in the White House, touched on what they thought were the most important issues, challenges and obstacles facing our sector, and how they might be addressed, as well as how the arts might play any role in policy making or implementation, I think the field would have benefited by such knowledge. President Obama is the first to occupy that office and appoint someone to his staff whose job, at least in part, was to be the White House liaison to the arts. That is a very big deal to us. I wish they had been more transparent as to what they wanted that office to do and what efforts Mr. Modi was able to make in furtherance of their purposes. It would have been valuable to us to know – and it still would be.

I wrote to Mr. Modi a couple of weeks ago, and told him that I would be pleased to print a correction to any false impression I might have inadvertently created as to his work and his accomplishments, and invited him to share with me some of his efforts so that I might share them with my readers. So far, I haven’t heard anything back from him in response to that inquiry. I really would like to know more about his office, and his activities while in that office.

So, as he is getting near to the date of his departure from the White House and his return to his former film career, I would like to invite him to do an exit interview with me for this blog.

I think his take on being a White House liaison to the nonprofit arts sector would be enormously interesting and fascinating to our sector. I would like to ask him what he perceives are the challenges and problems we face on any number of levels, including being heard within the White House and the whole Executive Branch of the government. I would like to give him the opportunity to set the record straight and share with us those of his efforts he thinks have the most important implications and consequences for our future. I’d like him to share with us what he learned over the past year about trying to be a liaison between the arts & culture field and the corridors of power. I’d like to know what gave him hope and what frustrated him. I’d like to ask him what role, if any, he thinks the ‘for profit’ entertainment industry, from which he comes, might partner with the nonprofit arts sector for the mutual benefit of both, and how that might be accomplished. I’d like to ask him what suggestions he has for our sector getting more government support. I would like to ask him his impressions on if, and how, the White House sets cultural policy. I’d like to ask him how information from the various silos of federal arts & culture (NEA, NEH, Smithsonian etc.) funnel information to the White House – or do they? There are so many things I would like to ask him. I would be happy to furnish him written questions up front and publish his responses in their entirety without editing of any kind.

So please Mr. Modi, accept my invitation to share with the nonprofit arts sector an encapsulation and review of your work over the past year, and more importantly, your impressions of trying to represent the White House to the arts community and vice versa, and your opinions and thoughts on how the arts might gain wider attention from the Executive Branch of government and successfully address all the challenges we face. You have an extraordinary perspective, virtually no one else has, and we would benefit enormously if you would share what you learned over the last year. You’re really the only person to ever occupy the position you hold, and we really need to hear what you think before you leave. I have a good platform and a fairly large readership here and I offer it to you. If you aren’t comfortable doing the interview with me, or just prefer to do it with someone else, I can suggest any one of several other blogger colleagues of mine to you that I think would be most interested in doing such an interview with you, and all would, I assure you, give you a fair platform and treat you with respect. So would I. I hope you will take me up on this offer. Please.


According to an Associated Press Article  Sunday: "More than 200,000 small nonprofits across the nation are days away from losing their tax-exempt status because they haven't filed a new form with the Internal Revenue Service.

It's most likely the nonprofits aren't aware of the Monday deadline that only applies to groups that report $25,000 or less in income, excluding churches. Those organizations may not find out until Jan. 1, 2011, when they're notified they have to pay taxes on donations they thought were exempt. And it could be months before their nonprofit status is restored.

Congress required the form, called a 990-N, when it amended the tax code three years ago and groups with a fiscal year ending Dec. 31 had until Monday to meet the deadline.

The Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics, which conducts economic and social policy research, estimated Friday that 214,000 nonprofit organizations haven't filed the form as required.

Tom Pollak, program director for the center, said organizations that lose their tax-exempt status are no longer eligible to receive tax-deductible donations and are not likely to be awarded grants."

Check with your accountant.

NOTE:  Moy Eng, fresh from a Spring sabattical to recharge and spend time with family (after her eight year stint at the Hewlett Foundation) is back as the Interim Program Officer for Arts & Culture for the San Francisco Foundation, taking over for John Killacky, with a two-fold charge:  to sustain its current activity and redesign the arts and culture program, given a new foundation-wide strategic plan.

Have a great week.

Don’t Quit!