SanderO

Arts Funding

72 posts in this topic

Kind of reminds me of Mark Twain on Henry Rogers, vice-president of Standard Oil. "His money is twice tainted. T'ain't yours and t'ain't mine. He's a regular pirate, all right, but he owns up to it, and enjoys being a pirate. That's why I like him."

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Many will say that's just how it works in America, get used to it, shut up and enjoy the show. We have little chance of changing or even influencing the "funding model".

I think otherwise. The Jane Mayer piece, has stirred up a bit of a storm and shown some light on the back story. Frank Rich picked up on it and there will be some buzz in the board room not that they are a bit more aware that the public is not completely in the dark about who these institutions is accepting money from and the "deals" they make... because that's the funding model.

Hopefully some of the little folks, the small donors and even the ticket buyers and lovers of the arts who don't even get to sit in the house that is named for Koch (and the others) will demonstrate their dis - favor in this funding model and force these boards to be more sensitive to where the donation comes from and how the money was made and the agenda of the donor in out society.

The elite will not change or reform their ways. They will have to be forced to and it's only the people who can force them by their collective expression and demands for changes. No letter from an a single balletomane will change a thing, but many will and other effective political type protest will force these institutions to reconsider whose money they take int he future. If you do nothing, nothing will change.

Thank you Jane Mayer and Frank Rich. That's journalism at its best.

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Hopefully some of the little folks, the small donors and even the ticket buyers and lovers of the arts who don't even get to sit in the house that is named for Koch (and the others) will demonstrate their dis - favor in this funding model and force these boards to be more sensitive to where the donation comes from and how the money was made and the agenda of the donor in out society.

This is extremely naive. Over the past few weeks on this site there have been several news stories linked about the perilous state of dance in the United States. Dance companies are barely hanging on. Now is hardly the time to force these organizations to become picky about where their money comes from. You're free to try to convince them to alter their funding model, but I fear there will be no ballet companies left by the time you succeed.

http://www.observer....is-modern-dance

http://www.firstthin...0/07/last-rites

Ballet needs all the friends it can get, and that includes friends of all political stripes. Administrations change frequently in Washington. You need your defenders in every camp.

Besides how exactly is Koch's personal politics going to affect City Ballet's repertoire of plotless works? He's on ABT's Board of Trustees. Did he use his clout to veto the recent Alicia Alonso gala becase he objects to her politics? Evidently not. Did he stop ABT from bringing The Bright Stream to the Kennedy Center? No. Personally, I don't see too many reasons to be worried that these companies are about to be turned into propaganda machines for his or anyone else's agenda.

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Ballet needs all the friends it can get, and that includes friends of all political stripes.
it's always interested me that ballet has, over the centuries, been a favored art form of authoritarian regimes, from Louis XIV through the Romanovs through Stalin through Castro.

This is not a matter of "right" or "left." What these authoritarian regimes have in common are the monopoly of decision-making by a small privileged class.

I've often wondered why such regimes always seem to favor story ballets primarily, whether as propaganda or escapism? :blink:

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it's always interested me that ballet has, over the centuries, been a favored art form of authoritarian regimes, from Louis XIV through the Romanovs through Stalin through Castro.

This is not a matter of "right" or "left." What these authoritarian regimes have in common are the monopoly of decision-making by a small privileged class.

Exactly

I've often wondered why such regimes always seem to favor story ballets primarily, whether as propaganda or escapism? :blink:

Surely both? I'd like to know what others think, with specific examples, if possible :P

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Personally, I don't see too many reasons to be worried that these companies are about to be turned into propaganda machines for his or anyone else's agenda.

I don't think there is a general concern about ballet becoming an overt vehicle for propaganda. The question, if there is one, is where arts organizations should or shouldn't draw a line in regard to the source of donor money, and as far as I can tell the general opinion is that there is no such line.

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Arts funding is in a sorry state in America which looks to the private sector for all solutions. Just because all the arts institutions are "on the ropes" is no reason to let up the call for more scrutiny and some sort of higher standard about who they take their money from.

As noted previously the ego thing is off putting with all the naming and that only adds insult to injury. I wouldn't event think to examine the books of ABT, NYCB or Met Opera to see who endows their operations (aside from obvious ticket sales) were it not for all this in your face naming of everything from chairs to ballerinas to buildings.

Another disturbing aspect of course is that the ABT is selling the dancers point shoes to support insurance for the members or school (can't remember what they said it was). How bout one of these fat cats just paying the insurance premiums? But I guess they could get their name plastered on anything.

I am sure that ABT people DO read Ballet Talk and I hope they receive the message that we love the ballet but a growing number of people are not happy about their "funding practices".

We need to keep up the pressure if we want things to change. The city can underwrite loans and give tax incentives to sports teams and they need to help our arts institutions just the same (not at the same level of course).

Just think... the Board of Ed has an $18BB annual budget, employs 80,000 teachers and had over a million students and probably doesn't have a penny for ballet or opera.

If we don't speak up, we get what they give us. ABT are you listening?

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I surrender.

From a purely egotistic POV, I hope that SanderO succeeds in his efforts of "organizing" balletomanes and NY ballet companies. Even I would applaud the founding of Ballet Organizers for Reform Now!, a.k.a BORN.

With a little luck, some of that superb American dancers -accompanied by some chunks of cash- will found a nice exile in Spain, and mend the Attila-like consequences of Duato's tenure.

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Another disturbing aspect of course is that the ABT is selling the dancers point shoes to support insurance for the members or school (can't remember what they said it was). How bout one of these fat cats just paying the insurance premiums? But I guess they could get their name plastered on anything.

I don't understand the objection to raising money by selling autographed shoes. I am the proud owner of shoes purchased 30+ years ago autographed by Suzanne Farrell, Merrill Ashley, and Heather Watts. They're not worth anything (as so many others were also sold) and I would never sell them anyway. After three decades they are stored (lovingly) in plastic bags, as the glue has long since turned to sand and drained out. But they are lovely souvenirs and if dance companies recouped a little money that helped shore up their budgets, where's the harm? I see this at NYCB, ABT, SFB, etc., so it must be worth the trouble for all of them. (And I wouldn't be surprised if many Ballet Talkers own treasured collections of autographed shoes and programs and pictures and other things themselves...)

Fortunately, we live in a free country. If people want to boycott because they object to a group's finances (as many are now boycotting Target for its political donations), they are free to do that. As I've noted before, though, many of our most generous philanthropists had unsavory pasts for union-busting or anti-semitism or illegal activities, etc., etc. in accumulating the wealth they later gave away. But I don't see people boycotting the Carnegie libraries or the Ford Foundation or the many others who donated generously later in life.

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I think selling pointes is great. I just was pointing out that these egotistical donors might also consider funding the insurance of the young dancers instead of relying on the sale of pointes for this. Heck I bought a pair and love having them.

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I think selling pointes is great. I just was pointing out that these egotistical donors might also consider funding the insurance of the young dancers instead of relying on the sale of pointes for this. Heck I bought a pair and love having them.

Their insurance is part of their contract so far as I know. Where are you getting this? It isn't like only those who sell point shoes get insurance, and ultimately it is all going to the same funding pool, no?...

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I asked where the cash they collect from the sales go and was told that it funds insurance for the younger dancers at ABT. I don't recall whether this was the corps, or the school or what. All I remember is that it was for insurance.

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I asked where the cash they collect from the sales go and was told that it funds insurance for the younger dancers at ABT. I don't recall whether this was the corps, or the school or what. All I remember is that it was for insurance.

The on-line sales site for ABT autographed shoes (http://www.abt.org/Store/shoes.asp) says at the very bottom:

"All proceeds benefit ABT and The Dancers' Emergency Fund."

The Friends sales table at intermission seems to be staffed by very dedicated and hard-working volunteers and perhaps "Dancers' Emergency Fund" is what they intended.

On-line, they also sell ABT Capezio dancewear: http://www.abt.org/Store/default.asp

There it says: "All proceeds from American Ballet Theatre's on-line store sales directly support American Ballet Theatre's education programs and performances."

So, perhaps younger dancers in their educational programs are benefitting and that's what the volunteers you spoke with were thinking of.

Gift shops are big money-makers for all of the arts (museums, opera, ballet, etc.). More power to them!

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I've heard from a reliable source of donors being encouraged to sponsor a specific dancer or project only to discover that the cash was spent quite differently. People that have been generous on one occasion are therefore unlikely to be caught out twice.

Some years ago I worked for a big charity that received a donation left specifically for the benefit of the staff and instead the money was used to revamp the building's reception area thereby employing a friend of one of the directors. It didn't need any work done as it had already been refurbished thanks to a very famous donor who mostly made his gifts away from the public eye, not surprisingly I am now very cynical about charitable giving.

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The charity industry is as corrupt as any other and perhaps even more so. Where there is money, there is power. Where there is money to be dispersed, their is corruption and nepotism.

Money is the root of all evil seems to be an apt phrase.

The people in need usually are the last ones to see charity.

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The people in need usually are the last ones to see charity.

Well, yes ... and no.

Somtimes it is better to live with -- and work to reform -- the imperfect systems that we have than to hold out for the unlikely hope of a perfect world. I'm reminded of E.M. Forster's sly phrase: "Two Cheers for Democracy." Also, the response I once heard to someone's claim that Life was Unbearable: "But consider the alternative." Also, Grandma's advice for generations: "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Short of eliminating capitalism and completely revising the nature of power politics, what real alternatives do we have?

Wouldn't it be better to work for greater transparency in arts funding and charity (so we can easily find out what is actually going on) and to create reasonable, fair, and enforceable regulations to govern these activities?

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Bart,

This is veering away from Arts Funding,

Admin Edit: The rest of this post has been deleted. It is against Ballet Talk policy to discuss politics unless there is a direct connection to the arts. There are many places on the Internet to discuss the American political and economic systems, but this isn't one of them.

Edited by Helene
Ballet Talk Policy

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I've been preoccupied with some work lately, and have only now read through this thread, so I have the advantage of seeing everyone in a bunch -- forgive me for the cherry-picking here!

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 ... Andrew Mellon ... Ford Foundation ... Rockefeller Foundation ...

A good point, and not just a 19th-20th century phenomenon. Some people have equated this kind of public giving with the old practice of buying indulgences from the Catholic Church, an attempt to ameliorate the backlash for certain behaviors by currying favor, though I wouldn't go anywhere near that far! Philanthropy is motivated by all kinds of elements, some truly self-effacing, but most not. In general, the current emphasis for board membership and/or donation is more on civic engagement and networking/promotion than on wielding some kind of influence over artistic content, though that does still happen.

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.

This actually does happen, more often than I think the denizens of this board believe, based on the response to this comment. In Seattle, a socially prominent part of the community banded together as PONCHO (an acronym I can't find the source for) to raise money for the arts in the 1960s through a series of auctions, the proceeds of which were disbursed by a separate committee who fielded applications. The application process has been pretty rigorous, and an unintended side product of it was that if you managed to get a PONCHO grant other funders figured you knew what you were doing and looked at you a bit more favorably. More recently, Arts Fund has done a similar thing, raising money from corporations and disbursing it rather like the United Way does with social/health safety net funding.

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.

I do know of several groups that have not solicited or accepted funds from tobacco companies or their agents, but as many people point out, it is difficult to say 'no' to an opportunity.

At this point I think it would be exceptional for a performance venue not to be named after a donor.

I agree -- I was gobsmacked when a group of local donors gave a substantial gift to the local art museum to acquire the acreage for an outdoor sculpture park with the caveat that it could not be named after them. Instead, it's named after the mountain range it looks out to.

If I had beaucoup $$$, there would be something associated with electricians at some opera house named after my parents.

My sister and I really wanted to donate something to the local opera house when it was remodeled, if they would let us name a bathroom stall after our mother, who used to complain about the lack of facilities!

(this is my first go-round with the "multi-quote" function -- what a time-saver!)

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I am one of those who think it is at best hopeless and at worst counter-productive to put pressure on companies to exclude potential donors for moral or political reasons. I would though agree that they should, in the normal course of things, refuse money from donors who expect to influence artistic policy in direct fashion. Even good suggestions from a donor could set a bad precedent. (I added "in the normal course of things" because I guess Balanchine, for example, would not necessarily have chosen to choreograph for Tilly Losch but, as Tim Gunn would say, he made it work. And I'm sure one could come up with many other examples.)

Of course, in a general way, donors are influencing artistic policy and its accompanying 'politics'(which may or may not have an obvious content or serve an external purpose) simply by virtue of what/who they choose to support. What if Lincoln Kirstein had decided to focus his energies on one of his other loves such as sculpture? Perhaps Central Park would have a remarkable sculpture garden and Lincoln Center have no home for ballet at all.

This does not mean that I'm not sympathetic to those who feel some pangs at the current situation. Having the New York State Theater renamed for a private donor (whatever his politics) was something of a mild shock to me and (speaking for myself only of course) the particular politics of the donor involved did not...um...er...soften the blow.

BUT I do not think it is entirely hopeless or at all counter-productive to put pressure on political figures and government generally (local and federal) to support the arts, including pressure to try to keep the dispersal of public funds in the hands of people in the arts world, i.e. people whose moral/political agendas will at the very least be mediated by a primary committment to the art forms in question. The more public funding is available the less need for artists to go hat-in-hand to ... whoever. (I do realize that public funding, too, is never entirely 'pure.')

I fully understand that many of us may choose to place our public priorities elsewhere, but letting political figures know that public support for the arts matters--and could even influence votes--could possibly have some sort of impact. Though I realize it's a long shot, since I'm guessing the numbers of people for whom this issue will ever be a deal-breaker when it comes to votes and other kinds of support is very small.

(In one election a candidate I otherwise disliked was on record as supporting the creation of a national commissioner for boxing--something I strongly support, but recognize is probably not a "deal breaker" issue in a major election ( :dry: ahem)--but I just loved telling all my friends, that it was making me reconsider my vote. Unfortunately I was never able to convince any of them I was serious. But with arts funding maybe one could pull it off...and threaten to stay at home if no-one would come out in favor!)

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A fundraising mechanism is putting wealthy donors on your Board of Directors - but having a Board full of wealthy people ignorant about an art form, and about the very workings of the company they control, is what scares me the most. Time was that the key donors actually knew something and had some pronounced taste, good or middling or at least somewhat informed. Nelson Rockefeller collected art and new something about it; Kierstein had to negotiate things with him. Company boards here up until about five to ten years ago had more general knowledge and independent insight than I believe they do today. As time has gone by, a business model has been followed.

Company artistic directors who are in place for a long, long time, have an obvious interest in having (wealthy, generous, glamorous, but) utterly compliant and passive boards that let them run things to their their liking.

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As a contrast to the U.S. system (dependence on private philanthropy, with a small and declining public component), here are the figures for Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal.

Total budget for latest year (*) : $6.8 million (5.3m euros):

Amount contributed by city and regional government: $4.2 million (3.3m euros)

Money from ticket sales, donations, and other sources: $2.6 million (2m euros)

That means that the government share is roughly 61-62%. This is mind-boggling from a North American perspective.

On the one hand, the commitment of Wuppertal and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to a dance company is admirable in my book. On the other hand, I wonder how this funding priority was decided, by whom, and for what reasons.

To spend on one thing means NOT to spend on another. Tanztheater's feast is someone else's famine.

Deciding what is right in situations like this is not easy.

http://www.nytimes.c...uppertal&st=cse

(*) Roslyn Sulcas' article does not specify which year. From the context, it seems cleare that this was an extension of a level that existed prior to Bausch's death.

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What's the word from our UK posters regarding the recently announced budget cuts (30% for the Arts Council)? SimonG? Leonid??

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