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 Post subject: Secretary of the Arts?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 4:26 am 
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There's a move afoot, headed by Quincy Jones, to create a cabinet-level Secretary of Cul-Chuh:

More from National Public Radio.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 5:58 am 
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Do you honestly need one? We have one here in the UK and this is the website for our Ministry of Culture.

http://www.culture.gov.uk/

Do please give your opinions.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:04 am 
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Quote:
Do you honestly need one?


Quincy Jones seems to think so, as do the 15,000 people who so far have signed the petition.

One point made dovetails with your citation of the UK Ministry of Culture: when there are world-wide conferences on the arts, we have no one of comparable rank to send. I'm not sure that in itself is reason enough, but it would be nice -- especially after the debacle of the past 8 years -- for the government to formally indicate that arts and other intellectual pursuits are important to our national identity.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:28 am 
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Jones says, "Emotional defense is just as important," as physical defense.

The idea is also supported by Americans for the Arts, which points out that the move would have a positive economic impact -- marketing of intellectual property and cultural tourism would be coordinated, rather than hit-or-miss as it is now.

Jones "believes that artists help define a society."

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 9:20 am 
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Cassandra has put up a link to the website of the UK`s DCMS, the composite ministry for culture, media and sport. Here are the specific pages for the culture section:

http://www.culture.gov.uk/about_us/culture/default.aspx

and the arts section:

http://www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/arts/default.aspx

While additional finance would not go amiss, overall, I have yet to see a more effective arts funding model than the UK one, with an arms length body, Arts Council England, receiving funding from the DCMS. This is not withstanding that ACE has recently emerged from having an appalling Chief Exec; despite the mayhem created at the London HQ, the regions continued to do a vital role in financing the Arts in England to the tune of some $600m per year.

And I`m sure that part of that success derives from having the area recognised at a high Government level and having a dedicated Minister for Culture, Creative Industries & Tourism who reports to the overall Minister for DCMS.

So, in my view, the appointment of a Secretary for Culture should be a big help for Arts in the US, both in raising its profile in political circles and increasing the ludicrously low funding available from ACE`s equivalent body in the US, the National Endowment for the Arts, with a meagre $125m available for arts grants in 2007.

It would be great if it were at cabinet level, as then you would be ahead of us, as only the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is at cabinet level, not the Culture Minister .

Such an appointment would accord with Obama`s decision to be, apparently, the first presidential candidate to have an arts policy statement on their campaign website.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:32 am 
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Stuart Sweeney wrote:
an arms length body, Arts Council England, receiving funding from the DCMS.


Many of our state and municipal funding agencies follow a similar model, Stuart, being NGOs who are allocated government money for distribution.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:40 am 
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I don't remember -- after all, I was but a wee mite -- if he formally had it in his platform, but Kennedy was a big supporter of the arts, with ballet performances being held in the East Room.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:41 pm 
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I think a Secretary would indicate to American artists that the government values them. We don't feel that way now, to be sure.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 1:40 pm 
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Thanks Tom - I didn't realise that that happens. Are there any estimates of the scale of these state grants via NGOs.

By the way, ACE is a QUANGO: Quasi-autonomous NGO ie arms length, but accountable.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 1:51 pm 
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Stuart Sweeney wrote:
Are there any estimates of the scale of these state grants via NGOs.


I'm sure there are, Stuart, but I don't have those numbers.

The agencies to which I'm referring would qualify as QUANGOs, as well. The monies are appropriated by the government, but allocated and distributed by the agencies. The recipients, in turn, report back, at the end of the grant period, to the agency, which in its own turn reports, in a more general way, back to the government.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:39 am 
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To expand on what Tom said above:

The reporting process includes information on which areas of the city/state/country were served, which ethnicities were served, how many audience members in general were served, etc. It usually does not include, except in the most general terms, as relevant to the above, information about the actual content.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:35 am 
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However, there's the example of Scotland, where the governmental funding of arts (separate from the rest of the UK - I believe that the above mentioned Ministry of Culture is for England/Wales, as arts & culture are a devolved matter) has been a mess. Funding was completely withdrawn with little notice from highly regarded groups or allocated for very short time periods giving companies/artists no stability.

Firstly, the governmental arts agency has been repeatedly re-arranged, leaving funding in constant flux. Also, organizational structures moved towards more directly controlled funding bodies, which meant (means?) that decisions about arts funding were (are?) being made increasingly by politicians with no clue about artistic merit, history or infrastructure. For instance, funding decisions made year to year with little advance notice don't work for a ballet company that has to plan repertories and hire choreographers years in advance.

My impression is that the majority of those in the Scottish arts world felt that the system worked much better when the government allocated a set amount to the arts, and then decisions about funding were made by an independent board made up mostly of artists. And companies could be assured of funding for a number of years rather than to be constantly waiting for news about next year's money.

So, while a ministry of culture could be a good thing, when politics trumps artistic common sense, things aren't good. I think a government - with advice - should determine the amount of total funds going to the arts. Then, however, decisions on actual allocation should be made by arms-length or independent bodies who have artistic knowledge and are removed as far as possible from political influence. And that funding decisions should be made in long term contexts - great art comes from stability.


Kate


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:55 am 
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Kate makes a good point -- It's just as wrong to automatically assume that government funding will work as it is to automatically assume that it won't.

ksneds wrote:
I think a government - with advice - should determine the amount of total funds going to the arts. Then, however, decisions on actual allocation should be made by arms-length or independent bodies who have artistic knowledge and are removed as far as possible from political influence.


In most cases in the US, that's the model that's used. Several years ago, in Houston, the seven biggest performing arts organizations campaigned to have their grants removed from the peer-review process and made a line item in the city budget. They were warned that such a change would make their funding subject to becoming a political football. Within a year after their line item went into effect, their funding became a political football.


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And that funding decisions should be made in long term contexts - great art comes from stability.


Unfortunately, most public funding here is in the form of project grants; institutional support is hard to find.

Another good aspect of government support is management assistance -- teaching smaller companies and individual artists how to raise money, apply for grants, and do their basic bookkeeping. this was another issue in Houston; the seven big companies, with their relatively well-staffed administrative departments, thought it was a waste of money.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 1:44 pm 
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For those who would like to see the Secretary of Arts become a reality, my web site now has links to the NPR story and to the online petition, as well as the text of a letter written by Bill Sapsis -- and released to the Public Domain -- suitable for sending to the editor of your publication of choice.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:06 pm 
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Thanks for posting that. I think a Secretary for the Arts could be an interesting first step.


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