This is an essay discussing the decentralization of cultural arts funding. Essay is written as: I am the Executive Director of a state arts agency. The state has two large urban areas with surrounding suburbs, the rest is rural. The State Legislature, in response to constituents' complaints that too many state funds are being funneled to "elite cultural institutions in the cities" is considering instituting a decentralized funding strategy. I have been hired as a consultant to make a recommendation to adopt or refute a decentralized funding strategy. Discussed are the political and theoretical motivations behind the argument for decentralized arts funding. Also discussed are views on decentralization trends in arts funding and the potential effects on artists, arts organizations and arts audiences, the effects on rural, urban, and suburban areas are described, as well as ways this trend might affect the current system or infrastructure for arts support and policy development and the management of local and state arts agencies. I recommend whether the state should adopt this approach, why and how it will be implemented.
Decentralization of the Cultural Arts
The Arts breathes life into any community, whether urban, suburban, or rural.
How often have we heard of a ghost town, perhaps an old mining town, or a city's abandoned warehouse district, or a small farming community once remote but now only minutes away the city limits of a major city, that has been virtually transformed by becoming home for the arts. Art is a magnet. It draws people no matter their race, social or economic status. It is just as likely that a tobacco farmer, living a hundred miles from the nearest metropolitan area, enjoys the Boston Pops on PBS just as much as the executive living in a high-rise condo. The border of city limits does not exist for art. Art is found in the most remote area of our globe. Art represents our humanity, who we are as human beings. It may be displayed through colorful quilts, hand-carved toys, sculpture from a collage of metal junk, canvases of paint, jewelry, tapestries, music, theater, modern and folk. Simply put, art is the spark of life.
The arts are key components in the economic vitality of any community," contends Ben Cameron, Dayton Hudson Foundation's senior program officer for the arts (http://arts.endow.gov/pub/AmCan/Chapter3.html).Itis a theme that generates more excitement among both business and civic leaders than any other issue. Cameron cites 1.3 million workers in the nonprofit arts generated $37 billion in economic activity and returned $3.4 billion to the treasury in income taxes, facts anyone can appreciate.
Although the Boston Pops will never serve as many people daily as the Boston Market, "the arts create more livable communities" (http://arts.endow.gov/pub/AmCan/Chapter3.html).
Roberto Bedoya, executive director of the National Association of Artists'
Organizations, notes that most maps of the cultural terrain are more effective at charting the institutional landscape. "America is experiencing a boom in the development of large cultural facilities, new libraries, museums, and concert halls. In the face of all these millions being spent on arts institutions, artists are being told that there is less or no money for them" (http://arts.endow.gov/pub/AmCan/Chapter3.html).Bedoyaadvises against losing sight of the artist's needs in our preoccupation with institutional growth.
Furthermore, Bedoya says, "The importance of art in our society cannot be reduced to mean, 'If I have a museum I have art,' and in that process erase artists and their needs. All the talk about supporting our cultural infrastructure is worthless if we fail to support the essence of creativity -- artists, their explorations, and inquiries" (http://arts.endow.gov/pub/AmCan/Chapter3.html).
The YA/YA (Young Aspirations, Young Artists) Program in New Orleans became a way to ease tensions between white merchants and multi-ethic teenagers in a downtown neighborhood. It was sparked by one woman's artistic solution to the problem, an after school arts program that brought the whole community together and transformed their neighborhood. The young artists create murals, fine art pieces, poetry and music from their lives (http://www.newday.com/films/Young_Aspirations.html).JanaNapoli told her students that art makes money. And she is right. One student, who had been hanging around on the street, now has a chair he designed selected for inclusion in the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalogue. YA/YA has been commissioned to paint a mural in a local shopping mall. Roughly $200,000 a year is netted through design contracts. Swatch Corporation asked YA/YA students to design two limited edition watches…