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January 31, 2011


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Scott Walters

I agree with you, J -- some bloggers' references to NEA-run "death panels" misrepresents Rocco's statements as much as the Teapartiers did about health care. Rocco is the head of a granting agency, and part of what someone like that has to do is define priorities. Now, he DID justify his priorities by talking about the field being "overbuilt," which coming from the NEA sounded ominous and a bit like a betrayal -- he's supposed to be fighting FOR us, not against us. But the other thing you noted is correct: this was in the context of seeking to provide a livable wage for theatre artists. At any rate, while I likely wouldn't agree with his priorities, I think the place of entry into the discussion is to talk about the priorities, not about entitlement.


I hadn't heard about the NEA-run "death panels." Heh. But yes, I think we're both in agreement about the priorities. But not any language that puts the arts on the defensive. And I think artists and group should be wary of any decision to put more money into fewer orgs. How that gets decided is likely to disadvantage smaller organizations without an effort made not to. Not out of bad intentions, just out of operational biases.

But we can't expect the NEA to do it all for us.

Ian Thal

Honestly, not being at the conference, I really couldn't get a grasp of what he was saying based on the responses that were showing up on the blogosphere prior to Landesman's own statements.

Aaron Andersen

I generally agree that if artists are to be paid more, all else equal, there will have to be a concentration and reduction of the quantity of "product" for sale. But you can't really enforce that. If all the theater artists were going to get together and agree to this scheme, it would mean some would not work at all. And we know that there are lots of theater artists who would rather work for free than not work at all.

Luckily "all else equal" doesn't exist in the real world. I think the expansion of theater outside of currently saturated urban hubs is a smart move to discover unmet demand (Scott has been saying this for a long time). Just convince more theater artists that it is better to work in theater with pay, in a place where that pay can actually cover rent, than it is to chase after the attention and approval of the urban demigods of the industry.

Verna Derosier

Money wouldn't corrupt a non-profit's goal if it's managed by a professional, in my opinion. I needed help with ours back then, since each and every one of us want to do something different with the funds. I researched about ways to manage funding and donation. Friends suggested a lot of nonprofit fundraising software to help but I'm just too slow to figure these out on my own. Well, I liked the one named SAGE fundraising software, so I tried to research more about it and ended up doing the accounting for our group myself!

V. Worried

I think it is worth noting WHEN Mr. Landesman made his remarks: at precisely the moment when 50 state legislatures were convening to consider how to divide up a rapidly shrinking pie. If Mr. Landesman wanted to say "we should have fewer large arts organizations", then he could have said that and there would be no doubt as to his position. But the unclear language he used allows him to communicate to those legislators that he supports giving whatever money is available to the large groups while cutting loose the smaller ones - while not having to stand up and speak those words directly. It is a cowardly statement and he really needs to resign his position immediately. The arguement for a "living wage" for artists is a great argument in and of itself, but when paired with his other argument, it reinforces the notion of fewer small arts organizations, since it is well known that only larger organizations have the budget to pay anywhere near a living wage. But Landesman won't tell you this: the larger an organization gets, the larger PERCENTAGE of its budget must go to administrative needs. That means that smaller arts organizations provide a far greater bang for the buck than do larger ones. If he really were interested in "the arts" as an NEA chair ought to be, then he would be advocating for, if any cuts at all, then cuts to the very largest organizations. That is the best way to serve the arts.

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