Sunday, November 4, 2012

And You Were On My Mind

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on......................."

The Devastation of Sandy:
My heart goes out to all those on the East Coast who are trying to cope with the devastation of last week's fury of Mother Nature. Having been in the Thailand Tsunami, I know personally the awesome power of weather, and especially water, to destroy property and disrupt lives.  While the early aftermath is centered on survival, the longer term challenge is as much emotional.  It is still too soon to know precisely the impact on our sector, but even for those not directly in the path of the storm, the impact of the disruption of normal functioning is bound to cause havoc on performance schedules, fundraising and more.

I am heartened to see that we do have resources available to our own people, and that there is meaningful activity in trying to assess the impact and respond to the challenges.  The California Arts Council website provides links to coverage of the impact of the storm.

What we really need is some kind of war chest available to help our people when these kinds of natural disasters hit - and if you believe the commentators, the frequency of natural climatic disasters is very likely to increase;  funds that could be used specifically to support hard hit arts organizations and individual artists.  While national appeals to donate to the Red Cross and other agencies have seen an outpouring of American generosity, it would be even more beneficial if we had a fund of our own.  I doubt we are likely able to mount Telethons or other such tools to create such a fund, but were there the will, we might someday be able to develop our own mechanisms to fund such as war chest.

We could, for example, organize an effort by performing arts organizations / museums to, say, donate some small percentage (10%?) of a single performance (or day's box office) to such an effort - complemented by an appeal to all of us for individual donations.   All we would really need logistically would be for AFTA, Fractured Atlas, the NEA or some body to administer the account, and then generate enough commitment across the country to do it.  Each participating organizations could determine for itself when to do it, and then forward their contribution to the organizing agency.  If we had significant participation, it would likely generate substantial funds.  Perhaps, we might even do this once a year.

Of course, it is a lot to ask of already struggling organizations, but a one time, small contribution would not necessarily be unreasonably taxing.  Maybe I am just a dreamer and this is not something our own people would support.  Consideration of such a move raises the question of whether or not we are a community, or more precisely whether or not we think of ourselves as a community.   Are we willing to act on behalf of our own, especially if that constitutes sacrifice few can honestly afford?  I have no idea the answer to that kind of question, and maybe we don't want confirmation that we do not think of ourselves as a "community" wherein we all share some sense of responsibility for the rest of us.  I think, though, that were there the right kind of appeal, it might work.

I suppose some would argue it isn't really necessary - that the Red Cross and other agencies best address the needs in situations like this.  I wonder though if, long after the media interest in the slow process of recovery has waned, whether or not the unique needs of our people will be met by those efforts.   I personally believe that the very exercise of trying to take care of our own has its own intrinsic value in building a sense of "we-are-in-this-together", and I think acting as a community benefits the whole of us far beyond helping those of us who are facing trying times.

In any event, I hope and pray all the people affected by this storm - including especially our people - quickly recover and get back to some sense of normality.  It will take time.  While those of us in other parts of the country are grateful we are not the ones hit this time, this kind of catastrophe ultimately negatively impacts us all.

Follow up on the election:
This comparison of the Presidential Candidates arts platforms, - from Americans for the Arts.

Congratulations to Victoria Hamilton - first for San Diego's success in recent efforts to secure a "Penny for the Arts" plan that would more than double the percentage allotment of the TOT earmarked for the arts, increasing the funding from $7.3 million in 2012 to nearly $18 million in 2017.  That is a fitting 'farewell' accomplishment for one of the sector's major leaders as she announces her retirement after 24 years as the only executive director of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.  I have had the great pleasure of working with Victoria over my entire tenure in the field, and she is in a league with the very "best and brightest".  Well done, Victoria.  And thank you.   Thank you very much.

Have a great week.  Vote.

Don't Quit