SanderO

Arts Funding

72 posts in this topic

Please move this post to the appropriate section if it does not belong here.

The arts are in continuous need for financial support and ticket sales and other marketing revenue streams are insufficient to sustain the ballet, or the opera despite the high cost of tickets these days.

The arts have relied on the generous contributions of supporters to keep them afloat. The state does provide or did provide support recognizing that the arts are in the public interest.

What we have is that some high net worth individuals with deep pockets (so to speak) are now the backbone of the support of companies such as ABT and the HYCB. Amoung these supporters is the Koch family who use their money not only for the "arts" but for their political agenda which is decidedly right wing.

See this article:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer

which also appeared on the Huffington Post. I think it's great that left, right and center people enjoy and support the arts. But I am troubled by some of the supporters and this case the Koch family which has been behind so many troubling agitation by the extreme right wing. I find accepting their money is so unsavory that it puts their arts institutions in a very compromised and negative light (for me at least), so much so that I want to protest this deal with the devil. I don't know how, other than to write letters and boycott the companies, which is a kind of self punishment.

Of course others may feel completely differently or completely indifferent to the sources of funding and the politics behind it all - they are only interested in the arts.

Sadly everything is political and ABT, NYCB and the NYO have stepped right into this mess.

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As much as I dislike the lopsided political influence of the very wealthy (who ironically complain of the influence of "special interests"), surely no arts institution can turn down gifts of millions, and in this case even 100 millions, of dollars.

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I'll repeat a story that my little class of potential arts administrators were told at a half-week seminar at Jacob's Pillow in about 1986 by Sam Miller, then the administrative director of Pilobilous and about to be named successor to Liz Thompson: If you have a problem taking money from oil companies, cigarette companies, and other companies and individuals that seek to enhance their reputations by donating to arts institutions, sponsoring "Masterpiece Theater", etc., don't go into arts management.

Unless Mr. Koch's political leanings, which were discussed when he was announced as the renovation sponsor of the New York State Theater, affect what is onstage, this is not an appropriate topic for Ballet Talk.

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I am not in arts management, but I am someone who attends and supports the ballet. I do think this aspect of the arts is appropriate for discussion. If not here, then where?

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In the UK and throughout Europe the arts are supported by government as it is generally thought that the arts both educate and civilize and therefore enrich the lives of the general public. I suppose relying on wealthy donors comes at a very high moral price as almost all wealth is created by means most would consider reprehensible. I would say whether one attends these events or not is up to individual conscience.

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I am not in arts management, but I am someone who attends and supports the ballet. I do think this aspect of the arts is appropriate for discussion. If not here, then where?

Discussing politics is against Ballet Talk policy unless politics affects what is onstage. So the answer is "somewhere else" -- blog, other discussion board, IM, Facebook -- where there is a different (or no policy).

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If you have a problem taking money from oil companies, cigarette companies, and other companies and individuals that seek to enhance their reputations by donating to arts institutions, sponsoring "Masterpiece Theater", etc., don't go into arts management.

If only it were that simple. That's a nice little get-out-of-jail-free card for the arts administrator who'd rather not too look too hard at where the money is coming from, but I can think of scenarios where that policy comes back to bite. But it isn't so much a question of ambiguous intentions - Koch may well be looking to climb the social ladder or "enhance" his reputation, but those aren't necessarily bad motivations even if they are less than high minded and they can lead to good outcomes, as they say nowadays. (I also think that Koch does have strong feelings about supporting the arts, as well.) Nothing inherently wrong with that. It might become a question eventually of to what extent a given institution is willing to be used for such purposes, and where is the line when you can imagine arts groups saying, "Your money's no good here."

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That's a nice little get-out-of-jail-free card for the arts administrator who'd rather not too look too hard at where the money is coming from, but I can think of scenarios where that policy comes back to bite.

I disagree. I think Sam Miller was telling us that arts administrators do look hard at where the money is coming from and the reality is that the money has historically come from governments, religious institutions, private individuals with their wide array of political views, and companies, like oil companies, cigarette companies, software companies, luxury builders, etc. who are in it to enhance their reputation. As an arts administrator you can pretend you don't know the source or you can understand that unless you can self-fund or raise money from people/businesses/governments/institutions/grantors/foundations with the "right" ideas, you take most of what's offered or you won't have a company to run. Not everyone was happy with the politics of the de Medici's either.

If you're a donor to NYCB, you can pull your money if you don't agree with the institution accepting money from Koch (or XYZ company/foundation/individual/institution). If you're a ballet student, you can refuse to go to the Kirov Academy because it's funded by the Unification Church. If you're a fan you can choose to boycott a company, picket, write letters, blog, or refuse to step foot in their named building. Until you or I or someone with the "right" politics can write the checks to replace the money from the Bad People.

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Seems to me that a discussion like this could be appropriate for this forum (altho perhaps not this subforum) as long as it does not debate the political issues or points-of-view themselves, but instead restricts itself to a discussion of the impact and desirability of arts organizations accepting money from parties that have expressed political agendas. It's a decision any arts manager has to make frequently (probably nearly everyday).

P.S. I want to make clear that I do appreciate the BT moderators insuring that the discussion does NOT stray accidentially or purposely into a solely political discussion. One discussion is about the thing itself, the other is about the IMPACT of that thing on the arts. The one discussion seems to me to be appropriate, but the other is not.

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I think that it is very important here to mention that on each side of this issue there is a "right" group and and "wrong" group. It just depends upon your own personal point of view. So, please be careful in demonizing any particular group of donors. Arts organizations accept donations from all sides, I believe.

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As an arts administrator you can pretend you don't know the source or you can understand that unless you can self-fund or raise money from people/businesses/governments/institutions/grantors/foundations with the "right" ideas, you take most of what's offered or you won't have a company to run. Not everyone was happy with the politics of the de Medici's either.

Well, views on certain matters have changed and developed since the time of the Medici, or one hopes so at any rate. My point was not that arts administrators can or should apply litmus tests, but where the line is drawn. I should think that there is such a line somewhere??

Until you or I or someone with the "right" politics can write the checks to replace the money from the Bad People.

I didn't say anything about political allegiances per se, right or left, or suggested that I had the "right" views, as it were. I was actually thinking more along the lines of how a corporation or business leader conducts business, treats employees and uses its funds, or the type of products it or s/he flogs to the public. I think most people would agree that the fact that Koch holds right wing views is not in itself enough to say no to his gazillions.

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The U.S. has a long history of avoiding government support of the arts that might emulate a government-run "Ministry of Culture" more typical of Europe. So it evolved a complex mix of hands-off government support in which funding decisions were recommended by outside experts at the Arts Endowment (since 1965) combined with indirect government support (through tax incentives) of private donations and private foundations supporting artistic, cultural, and educational projects.

The amount of money from NEA is a drop in the bucket compared with the indirect support from the tax code, but the decision on what to fund is being made by individual taxpayers, not government bureaucrats, and the American public seems more comfortable with that. Even Roosevelt's Works Project Administration supported the arts as a jobs program, not support for the arts per se, as jobs were the only things the public would swallow. With continuing economic stress, other developed countries in recent decades have looked to the American model to encourage more private support for the arts.

We have a long history of wealthy people with histories that some consider unsavory, who donated huge sums of money that benefitted everybody. Andrew Carnegie built libraries all over the country. Andrew Mellon built the National Gallery of Art (and a lot more). Ford Foundation has supported numerous artistic and educational projects (including support for Balanchine and the Dance Theatre of Harlem). Rockefeller Foundation has a long history of support for the arts and education. For much of its history, PBS received about 1/4 of its funding from Exxon-Mobile. Texaco brought the opera to America with its radio broadcasts. Were some of these people buying good will or trying to clean up their reputations? Perhaps, but what are the alternatives? It's inconceivable, even in the best of economic times, that the government will step up and replace all that private funding, and we should be grateful that the tax code continues to provide some financial incentive for their generosity.

And new generations of wealthy people are giving huge sums to philanthropy -- Bill Gates, George Soros, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner, and yes, the Koch brothers. Fortunately, they span the political spectrum. People forget that when David Stockman (Reagan's OMB director) tried to shut down both Endowments in the early 1980s, some of the loudest objections came from wealthy Republicans serving on the boards of museums, dance companies, and symphonies all over the country, and the Endowments were spared. Establishment of the NEA in the mid-60s had been genuinely bipartisan, with essential leadership from Republican Jacob Javitts and Democrat Claiborne Pell.

There are actors whose politics are so revolting to me that I refuse to see their movies. Other people boycott artistic people who named names to the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s (Jerome Robbins, for starters). So people always have that option if the politics are just too awful to bear for an artistic group. Let's just hope a diversity of funders continues to support the arts in this country!

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From the POV of a foreigner, some musings:

I don't think this thread is about laundering blood- or mob-money through ballet. Don't see the theaters making a politics test to prospective tickets buyers in order to check that their politics are "right" (or "left" :wink:) either.

Boycotting Ballet Nacional de Cuba because of the politics of the current Cuban government does not seem a sensible thing to do.

Having contempt, for instance, from one political side, for Maximova, Plisetskaya, Vasiliev, Fadeyev, or Alonso or, from the other side, for Petipa, Diaghilev, Balanchine, Baryshnikov, Makarova, or Pavlova may stink of bigotry. Perhaps not so much as despising artists for their sexual orientation, but still bigotry.

Private and corporate money seem to be a blessing for the Arts in USA.

The partisanship of the original New Yorker article seems open to discussion. In another forum, of course.

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Funding and the arts has always been a difficult subject. Is selective support also passive censorship?

Should we be concerned when a wealthy person chooses to sponsor one ballet instead of another? Or fund one choreographer over another? Does a benefactor's favorite dancer also get favored treatment by the artistic director (as some suspect)? I think it goes even further - are children from wealthier families who can afford private lessons, summer camps, and pointe shoes unfairly represented in the ranks of our companies? I bet there are a lot of tremendous 13 year-old dancers I'll never get to see because their families can't afford a pair of pointe shoes a week.

Those with the cash get to choose. We get to watch. I remember the hue and cry when Nelson Rockefeller laid out the plans for Lincoln Center - demolishing stores, houses, and most of a neighborhood to achieve his vision. There are many times when individuals - regardless of their politics - are the only ones who can cut through the redtape and get significant things done; in the arts and elsewhere. At least we have individuals who are getting things done in the Arts.

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What I would prefer to see is that donations are funneled through some sort of arts umbrella organization and are effectively anonymously passed on to the individual arts organizations. Now this may make little difference, dropping all the donations into one pot and having them then passed to the arts organizations, but I find the ego issues such as the naming of these buildings etc. rather disgusting. These are like trophies for these billionaires thrust in our faces.

And this is irrespective of the politics of the donors, which in the case of the Koch is troubling to me.

Why do these donors need their names published in playbills, plastered on the back of the seats over the doors to rooms in the hall.

If they are truly interested in the arts, why do these people make it about themselves? Why must they AND these arts organizations stoop to this crass catering to these elitists who buy the arts to assuage their consciences? Obviously there are some philanthropists and supporters of the arts who are not so ego driven as the Koch brothers. I find it almost equally shameful how arts organizations are forced to play this game simply to survive. How sad this is.

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It's always interesting when this topic comes up on Ballet Talk. AsThomas Mann (or someone) once wrote: "There is nothing that is not political." That definitely includes the arts and just about anything to do with money.

As dirac writes, lines are always being drawn in this kind of thing. It is highly unlikely, for instance, that a major arts organization would accept (or at least publicize) a grant from a tobacco company today, though this would have been unexceptionable 40 years ago.

The "line" between public and private financing of the arts has retreated in the United States to where it was in the 1920s and during the first few years of the Depression. Given the nature of U.S. political discourse today -- where the simplest government regulation can be demonized as "socialism" (a very bad thing, apparently) and support of the classical arts can be dismissed as "elitism" (almost as bad) -- it doesn't seem practical to hope for much from government funding or even government oversight. I wish this were not the case.

Economic inequality has increased steadily since the 1980s. So, who is left but the wealthy if one needs big money for good (or indeed for bad) causes? Since the wealthy have received the lion's share of tax cuts during the same period, they at least have the money. It's our own version of trickle-down economics.

____________________________

That said, I have a question: is the American Ballet Theater forum the right place for this discussion?

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Thanks, bart. You have a point about location - maybe "Ballet News and Issues" or "Other Arts" would be better?

People forget that when David Stockman (Reagan's OMB director) tried to shut down both Endowments in the early 1980s, some of the loudest objections came from wealthy Republicans serving on the boards of museums, dance companies, and symphonies all over the country, and the Endowments were spared. Establishment of the NEA in the mid-60s had been genuinely bipartisan, with essential leadership from Republican Jacob Javitts and Democrat Claiborne Pell.

I think people do realize that Republicans of the Rockefeller-Javits persuasion have been and still are – those that are still around, anyway - supporters of public support of the arts. But liberal Republicans of their type have almost vanished. I don't think the Endowments will ever be abolished, but their opponents have learned since Stockman's day that you don't need to get rid of them outright, with the attendant bad publicity.

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As dirac writes, lines are always being drawn in this kind of thing. It is highly unlikely, for instance, that a major arts organization would accept (or at least publicize) a grant from a tobacco company today, though this would have been unexceptional 40 years ago.

Altria is all over the arts world. The only thing that's changed is the name. In 2009, the company gave $3 million to arts organizations. (If you click the link at the bottom to download the detailed list, you'll need to rename the file to remove the ".aspx" or possible "open with" Adobe.)

There are industries/businesses that have too much "ick" to be acceptable; the sex trade comes to mind, and I suspect New York arts institutions would reject a production sponsorship from New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club, although not from the owner(s) personally. Yes, there are lines that are drawn -- and possibly drawn more frequently by companies whose founders are calling the shots on their own behalf -- but, who turned down money from Nike, even after there were allegations of sweatshops and child labor exploitation? Free wine from Chateau Ste. Michelle (owned by Phillip Morris' owners)? Free food from restaurants who might pay below minimum wage, and whose kitchen workers might get shafted in tip distribution? A 1.2M grant from the Walmart Foundation (to WGBH), whose parent company is not known for its altruistic labor practices? Big money from Boeing or Microsoft, after each pared thousands from its payroll?

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If they are truly interested in the arts, why do these people make it about themselves?

For one thing, I think it can have beneficial consequences. Human pride being what it is, one-upsmanship can be exploited to positive ends. Zillionaire X donates a lot of money to get his or her name on a PBS program, a concert hall or an art gallery. Zillionaire Y wants to keep up and does the same or one better. If that's what it takes to persuade someone to donate their private collection of masterpieces to a museum where anyone can see them, I don't think it's a bad thing.

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Altria is all over the arts world. The only thing that's changed is the name. In 2009, the company gave $3 million to arts organizations.

I don't think bart meant that the tobacco companies have gone away entirely. They still give but it's more on the downlow than it used to be and organizations are more chary of being associated with them too openly. Some of that is window dressing, yes, but nevertheless there has been a sea change in how the tobacco companies and their sponsorships are viewed. So all of those protests and complaints weren't all in vain.

Human pride being what it is, one-upsmanship can be exploited to positive ends.

Absolutely true. Social climbing is not an activity generally held in high repute but it's possible for arts organizations to cadge a lot of dough from the climbers looking for a foothold.

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I don't think bart meant that the tobacco companies have gone away entirely. They still give but it's more on the downlow than it used to be and organizations are more chary of being associated with them too openly. Some of that is window dressing, yes, but nevertheless there has been a sea change in how the tobacco companies and their sponsorships are viewed. So all of those protests and complaints weren't all in vain.

Who's turned their money down? Especially since they've rebranded themselves to sound like "altruistic"? The more tobacco is stigmatized and marginalized in mainstream media, the more important it is to find other channels to get the name out there.

Absolutely true. Social climbing is not an activity generally held in high repute but it's possible for arts organizations to cadge a lot of dough from the climbers looking for a foothold.

Cash for social status was good enough for aristocracy with crumbling castles and crumbling fortunes. When the Basses came to NYC, they threw a pile of money at it. Luckily for NYC arts institutions, they've been quite competitive after the divorce, although he found a more direct route through re-marriage.

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If they are truly interested in the arts, why do these people make it about themselves? Why must they AND these arts organizations stoop to this crass catering to these elitists who buy the arts to assuage their consciences?

As others are pointing out, successful fundraising (whether in the arts, education, or other cultural endeavors) depends heavily on a system of recognition. Some of that is healthy, if it creates peer pressure on others to contribute. (I'm thinking of Warren Buffett's current campaign to get the 40 richest people in the U.S. to promise to donate half their fortune to philanthropy.) Endowed chairs, named scholarships, endowed lecture series, named buildings -- would people have donated that money without the recognition? A few might, but the system works best when it finds ways to acknowledge people's support. It's a system that works for everybody, especially with dramatically declining goverment support (both Federal and state).

There are exceptions. A really HUGE name in the movie industry regularly gives annonymous gifts to the nearby campus of a state university campus here. It's a poorly kept secret on campus, but all public statements insist on annonymity. People who already have plenty of recognition and stature don't need a press release everytime they contribute to a worthy cause, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are others like the one I'm thinking about, but others need a different motivation to give.

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Who's turned their money down? Especially since they've rebranded themselves to sound like "altruistic"? The more tobacco is stigmatized and marginalized in mainstream media, the more important it is to find other channels to get the name out there.

I think I explained my view. We can agree to disagree. :)

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Since the wealthy have received the lion's share of tax cuts during the same period, they at least have the money. It's our own version of trickle-down economics.

:rofl: What a great observation. Long may it trickle!

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