The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Feb14Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Current Affairs; Tagged as: Americans for the Arts, Andres Serrano, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kentucky Humanities Council, KET, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Public Radio, NEA, NEH, PBS, Rand Paul, Robert Mapplethorpe, Shae Hopkins, Tea Party, Virginia G. Carter, WEKU, WUKY
The last decade, there was a piece of spam that would pop up in my email box every few months from various friends warning about proposed cuts to cultural funding – i.e., the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
It would usually be followed by a sheepish apology after the sender was notified the email was a hoax – to what purpose, I do not know – and there was really no serious discussion of eliminating cultural funding, because for more than a decade, there hasn’t been. After the early 1990s flare-ups over works by Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, federal cultural funding has stood relatively unchallenged except for economic adjustments.
And unlike the mid-’00s, when those spam notes seemed to come out of the blue, you could have seen some of the current proposals coming as Tea Party candidates won significant victories, including Rand Paul’s victory in the 2010 campaign for Kentucky’s open Senate seat. With promises of limited government and reduced government spending, cultural programs appear to be back on the chopping block.
To be exact, proposed GOP cuts, released Friday, would eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports PBS TV (KET in Kentucky) and National Public Radio (WUKY-FM 91.3 and WEKU-FM 88.9 are the primary outlets in Central Kentucky). It would also include heavy cuts to the NEA and NEH, amounts vary depending on what you read, and advocacy groups such as Americans for the Arts are sounding alarms that some proposals will call for total elimination of funding for those groups. (Update, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14: President Barack Obama’s budget also has significant cuts to the NEA and NEH but increases funding for public broacasting.)
Arts leaders in Kentucky are sounding alarms too.
KET’s website features a call to action from executive director Shae Hopkins, stating, “Federal funding provides nearly $2.9 million, or 14 percent of KET’s budget. That’s only $0.76 per Kentuckian.” The statewide network was also running spots over the weekend urging viewers to contact officials and protest the proposed cuts. The area public radio stations are also urging listeners to contact state congressional leaders through their websites.
In a message to supporters, Kentucky Humanities Council executive director Virginia G. Carter urged people to contract congressional leaders about a proposed $12 million cut to the NEH saying, “The Kentuckians who took the time to contact Congress about what the humanities meant to them and their communities helped save the NEH in the mid-1990s when it was threatened with elimination. This time, we need a similar outpouring of support, and fast!”
This time around, to cultural leaders, the threat seems real.
Full disclosure: Rich Copley provides regular commentary and occasional stories to WEKU-FM. He receives no financial compensation from the station.
LexArts will be one of 200 arts councils around the United States participating in “The Arts & Economic Prosperity IV,” an economic impact study of the arts conducted by Americans for the Arts, a national organization that supports the arts and culture through private and public resource development.
Americans for the Arts bills the study as “the most comprehensive economic impact study of the nation’s non-profit arts and culture industry ever conducted,” says a LexArts release. “It alters the perception the arts are luxuries worth supporting in prosperous times but hard to justify when the economy is struggling.”
LexArts president and CEO Jim Clark is vice chair of Americans for the Arts’ private sector council, which develops strategies for not-for-profit arts groups to increase private sector support.
LexArts says it is currentlyseeking area groups interested in participating in the study, which will include detailed information from participating groups and audience surveys. A steering committee will be formed late in thelater this summer, with marketing and communications plans beingto be developed in the fall.
For more information on the study, call (859) 255-2951.
Arts Kentucky, a statewide arts advocacy organization, announced last week that its board of directors has voted to dissolve the organization.
During its 15 years, Arts Kentucky functioned as a group that advocated for the arts with government and other officials and served the arts community as a whole with information from events to opportunities. The organization was a member of Americans for the Arts and was behind events such as Arts Advocacy Day during sessions of the State Legislature.
In recent years, the group has been buffeted by financial difficulties the group attributed to the faltering economy. In February, it eliminated its executive director position, held by David Cupps, saying it hoped to continue as an all-volunteer organization. Its email newsletter last week stated:
“As the economy has struggled, so has Arts Kentucky’s ability to provide relevant and continuous services for our members and friends. We have worked through the loss of full-time staff and we have made adjustments in our delivery of services. But unfortunately, the grant and sponsorship dollars have not been available to allow us to maintain a level of service that we feel is necessary to provide our members with the tools they need.”
In that note, it said 50 percent of membership dues will be refunded to all individuals and organizations that joined after Jan. 1, 2010. Anyone seeking further information should email firstname.lastname@example.org before Wednesday.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich