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National Endowment for the ArtsFunding awards for dance in 2010


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#1 California

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 01:18 PM

I'm puzzled by today's news report in CNSNews, stating that $1.7 million was awarded to dance companies by NEA in 2010:
http://cnsnews.com/news/article/70945

Here is the list from the NEA site of awards in the American Masterpieces program for dance for 2010 (62 awards totalling over $2.3 million):
http://www.nea.gov/g....php?disc=Dance

Another group is in the category of Access to Artistic Excellence:
http://www.nea.gov/g...ccess&DIS=Dance

Whether people think NEA should be spending more or less than this is another matter that I won't take up here.

#2 Helene

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 01:36 PM

I'm puzzled by today's news report in CNSNews, stating that $1.7 million was awarded to dance companies by NEA in 2010:
http://cnsnews.com/news/article/70945


Is your confusion about the numbers, 1.7M vs. 2.3M? (The last link is displaying a "404" server error for me, at least right now.)

It could be a timing issue, the available data, or poor research. The number from American Masterpieces would anger the Cybercast News Source, whose parent organization, Media Research Center, states on its website:

The mission of the Media Research Center, "America's Media Watchdog," is to bring balance to the news media. Leaders of America's conservative movement have long believed that within the national news media a strident liberal bias existed that influenced the public's understanding of critical issues. On October 1, 1987, a group of young determined conservatives set out to not only prove — through sound scientific research — that liberal bias in the media does exist and undermines traditional American values, but also to neutralize its impact on the American political scene. What they launched that fall is the now acclaimed — Media Research Center (MRC).



For everyone, NEA funding is a pertinent topic to discuss for us, and is on mission.

#3 volcanohunter

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 03:47 PM

The author of the story was probably unaware that American arts attendance figures were updated by the NEA in 2008. It would have shown even lower attendance at the ballet, so perhaps it's just as well. The 2008 report was discussed on a separate thread:

http://ballettalk.in...rt-concertgoers

I was grateful, however, for the link to the Princeton study because it included a chart on frequency of attendance, which the most recent NEA report did not. I found it fascinating because although far more people go to see musicals than ballets or operas, they don't actually go that much more frequently. Classical concert attendees may be less numerous than musical lovers, but they're more active.

I reiterate my objection to the representation ballet gets on PBS, and I say this as an opera lover: if more Americans attend the ballet than the opera, why do opera broadcasts on PBS so far outnumber dance broadcasts?

#4 California

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 04:26 PM

. . . For everyone, NEA funding is a pertinent topic to discuss for us, and is on mission.


I don't know if the Media Research Center posted that article to object to this expenditure of Federal funds. Perhaps they would be even more upset to know the amount spent on dance was even higher than they thought!

The new Chair at NEA has made it his mission to remind people that artists working in the arts not only have jobs themselves, but generate other jobs. I just returned from sold-out performances at the Vail Dance Festival and the Central City Opera Festival in Colorado. It was great that all those artists (and support staff) had work this summer, but it was also great that a lot of restaurant and hotel owners and workers in those otherwise-deserted resort towns had work generated by the festivals. From the age and demeanor of the audience members, I seriously doubt that many would have visited Vail or Central City to go hiking in the summer!

Both of those festivals had substantial private funding from individuals and foundations, along with small grants from NEA. But an important role NEA money has played over the years is the "seal of approval" that tells small foundations and private donors that this is a worthwhile group to support. That's an important role for NEA to continue, I think, regardless of the size of those grants.

#5 dirac

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 05:43 PM

I don't know if the Media Research Center posted that article to object to this expenditure of Federal funds.


It's quite clear from the article that CNS News is definitely unhappy. I posted this article in the LInks this morning and went back and forth about it, not because of the source as the tone. But links must be posted without fear or favor. I especially liked this:

CNSNews.com contacted the NEA, noting that the median household income in the United States is $52,000 and asked the NEA how it would explain to the average American mom and dad who make $52,000 per year – that taxing them to pay for ballet grants is justified.


Standing up for the little guy, by gum.

#6 volcanohunter

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 08:20 AM

Standing up for the little guy, by gum.

But, you know, I wish ballet companies and arts organizations in general would have come up with a better response to these sorts of objections by now. Lord knows these complaints aren't new. When the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation first televised ballet, there were howls of protest in parliament about taxpayer dollars being spent to put men in tights on TV screens. Ballet disappeared from the CBC a long time ago, so that's a moot point, but more than 50 years on, I get the impression that ballet companies are no better equipped to respond than they were back then. Platitudes about arts being a necessity and not a frill, generalizations about how much they add to the life of a community, or observations that arts funding makes up a tiny fraction of government budgets are too vague to persuade the unpersuaded.

#7 dirac

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Posted 15 August 2010 - 02:03 PM

I suspect they are unpersuadable, volcanohunter. Those platitudes you mentioned are actually pretty decent points if well and forcefully argued but they're not going to move people who regard the arts as the most expendable items in any given budget. (You can also point out that one's own tax dollars routinely go to projects or activities one views as unnecessary or worse, but in my experience that doesn't do much good, either.)

#8 volcanohunter

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Posted 15 August 2010 - 03:48 PM

Those points sound pretty convincing to me, too, and they're the sort of thing that sound great when rallying the troops, but in the light of the fact that government spending on the arts is going to come under intense scrutiny every time the economy goes south, I do think it would be a good idea to be armed with better arguments.

Certainly I think of the arts as an essential part of what makes life worth living, but given that hundreds of millions of Americans are managing without any opera, it's not a very good argument.

The part about arts actually getting very little in the way of government money could be made more persuasively than it is. Years and years ago I remember that many people attending the Oscars wore lapel pins with stamps painted on them. They were intended to illustrate that the contribution of the average taxpayer to the NEA was equivalent to the price of a postage stamp. That struck me as a good illustration, but I doubt many people remembered it once the award ceremony began. I happen not to be much acquainted with Hollywood flicks, so I remembered the lapel pins and thought it was a pretty good argument. Too bad it was a one-off. But I'm also very wary of this sort of argument because it can end up sounding like: Don't worry. The government actually wastes very little money on the arts. It wastes far more money on other stuff. To which a person could easily responding that the government shouldn't be wasting money, period.

I think that arts institutions could do worse than give concrete illustrations of how they contribute to the life of the community, economic and otherwise. I know it's difficult to measure, but my own experience with fundraising tells me that donors respond well to itemized lists of how money is spent and for what it's needed, as well as specific examples of how the organization benefits the community. But I acknowledge that I'm dealing with voluntary donors. In the case of state funding, this is more difficult to do precisely because people don't get much say in how the money is spent, and that's why the arguments have to be that much stronger.

North Americans may be operating under a particular disadvantage because I don't think there is any particular sense of national pride associated with the arts, as I suspect there is in other countries. Years ago I was introduced to a retired Soviet general, and when he found out I was a dancer, he immediately said something to the effect of, ah, but our ballet is the best in the world. Can you imagine an American general saying something similar?

#9 dirac

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 01:58 PM

North Americans may be operating under a particular disadvantage because I don't think there is any particular sense of national pride associated with the arts, as I suspect there is in other countries.



I agree and I think the lack of such an attitude is a major hurdle for American arts. In other countries it is taken almost for granted that thriving arts organizations are a credit to the nation and a source of pride.

Years ago I was introduced to a retired Soviet general, and when he found out I was a dancer, he immediately said something to the effect of, ah, but our ballet is the best in the world. Can you imagine an American general saying something similar?



Nope. Of course, this esteem for artists and writers can have its drawbacks poets may be largely ignored by our leaders, military and otherwise, but at least a US dictator, assuming he read much poetry in the first place, would be unlikely to ship any of them off to a gulag or one of our trusty black sites, even if such actions can be read as a backhanded compliment to the power of art.







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