Wednesday, May 31, 2017

[They would] end the American WAY OF LIFE

"Who?" you may ask. Try "What".

Thankfully we have Alexandra Petri to let us know what:


This is from her latest ComPost, "Planet Earth has been taking advantage of America for too long":

Nationalists in the Trump administration are right. We should withdraw from the Paris climate accord. 
This would be a real victory. America, after all, is on its own planet. 
Before Earth asks us to step up and help protect it, it should take stock of its own contributions. There is, frankly, a lot of waste there. It has flourished too long without cuts, and now it is time to pay the piper.
Read the rest at Washington Post.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

NEA Funding in the District in FY17

So I woke up this morning wanting to examine how the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts would affect the District starting with this current fiscal year's numbers.

And there are two aspects to this. The first is how it affects the funding of our own State Arts Agency, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. The second is how it funds DC based artists and arts organizations directly.

Before I left for work, I had enough information to at least share this.

The real nugget there is:
At $691,000, NEA funding accounts for 4.45% of CAH's current FY17 budget of $15,534,436. But that is disproportionately split between Personal Services and Non-Personal Services, with $566,391 of NEA funding accounting for 23.18%  of the PS budget and $125,510 accounting for only .96% of the NPS one.
Put another way, about 18.14% of NEA [Federal] funding is directed to Non-Personal Services, compared to the roughly 87.21% of $14,67,536 of the General [Local] funding go to Non-Personal Services.

Definitely feel free to check my math by checking out CAH's Attachment IV - Spending Plan from last year.

If nothing were to change except for the loss of the NEA, that means CAH would lose the equivalent of 7 FTEs out of a staff of 28. Now the problem here is how this loss would affect the ability and capacity of the agency to manage its programs. And that's where we need to dig a little deeper, to see exactly what positions in which departments may be affected.

Looking at the numbers more specifically from CAH's FY17 Schedule A from last year, NEA funding for PS is responsible for the entire salary of 6 staff members and half of the salary of 2 others.  Those positions in particular?

NEA funding covers half of the salaries of the:
  • Office Manager
  • Financial Manager
NEA funding covers the entire salaries for the:
  • Finance Assistant
  • Special Events Manager
  • General Clerk
  • Arts Education Coordinator
  • Grants Program Manager
  • Legislative Affairs Advisor
The break down of fallout by department?
  • 3 of 5 of the Operations team
  • 1 of 2 of the Arts Ed team
  • 1 of 2 of the Legislative Affairs team
  • 1 of 2 of the Program and Events team &
  • 1 of 4 of the Grants team
So...let's assume that instead of not changing anything and just losing what the NEA funded, CAH prioritized keeping the staffing structure as is. The amount lost from the NEA could easily come out of the Total Non-Personal Services from General Funds (see Attachment IV linked above), as the $691,900 NEA funding is roughly 5.41% of the $12,797,847 that was allocated for FY17.

Practically speaking, the agency would probably, by way of the budget oversight process with Council, have to balance the two, keeping staff and reducing grants made in amount and/or quantity. And while that may affect the award amount and quantity of grants, there candidly may not be a noticeably drastic change, particularly should the Commission choose to reduce the activities and programs from departments other than Grants, particularly Arts Education or Program and Events.

Where the cut in NEA funding would be truly detrimental would be in more rural areas, where they don't have the robust economy and diverse funding sources to support what arts programs and organizations they do have.

Check this article out:
The challenge is that our FY18 budget is presented, reviewed, and finalized often while the Federal budget is still going through its budget that's fun. And certainly something to look out for when CAH has ITS budget hearing with the Committee on Finance and Revenue, on Wednesday, April 12.

So, enough about the Commission, what about NEA's FY17 grantees based in Washington, DC

Out of 34 grantees, 12 of them are National and/or service organizations in scope. 1 of them is Global. 21 of them are local, with 2 of those being individuals and the other 19 being organizations.

Those 21 received a total of $452,500 with the median award being $17,500. To put it in perspective, that is about 4.92% of the over $9 Million in FY17 Grant Awards CAH approved for the current fiscal year.

So...that being said, District residents absolutely should still fight for the NEA, not because our arts community will be decimated if it goes away (it won't), but because this is about the fight for who we are and what we value as Americans. Funding the NEA is simultaneously a statement that we value the ability of individuals to discover their voice and express ourselves, as well as the unique experiment that is America and the kind of cultural exchange and creation that can only happen to the scale that it does, in our special melting pot. And if we don't value the arts in all their complicated, nuanced, and powerful ways to transform people as individuals, as communities, as a country, then what the hell are we fighting for.

What now? I recommend starting with Americans for the Arts' Arts Mobilization Center.

Oh, and if you're up for it, let me know what you think in the comments.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Council dates for artists and arts advocates in the District

DC Arts & Artist Advocates!

Save the dates for the following hearings at The Council of the District of Columbia. And please share.

*To testify contact: Sarina Loy, or 202-724-8058

DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities
Performance Oversight: Thurs, Feb 16, at 10 am in Room 500
Budget Hearing: Wed, Apr 26, at 10 am in Room 500

And with development of the Cultural Plan that is being led by the DC Office of Planning:

*To testify: email or call 202-724-8196

DC Office of Planning
Performance Oversight: Mon, Mar 6, at 10 am in Room 500
Budget Hearing: Mon, Apr 10, at 10 am in Room 412


*To testify contact: Demetris Cheatham at or 202-297-0152.

DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music & Entertainment
Performance Oversight: Wed, Feb 22, at 10 am in Room 500
Budget Hearing: Wed, May 3, at 10 am in Room 120

For the rest of the performance oversight and budget schedule.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why Word Matter - The difference between arts advocacy and advocacy for artists

So here's a post I shared on Facebook:

This is the full text:
Why words matter as it relates to arts advocacy and advocacy for "artists". 
I realize I might be overanalyzing it, but if you look at other organizing efforts, the Women's March, the Immigrants' March, the Scientists' March, even that word choice puts the individuals first, rather than institutions. And it puts the latter in service of the former, not the other way around. 
A March for Arts is an inherently different thing than an Artists' March, because the former and "arts advocacy" in general, is primarily focused on systems and supports for the institution of art, rather than the needs of individual artists.
I suppose all this is to say that, although I am terribly worried about the threat to the NEA, nothing's really changed when it comes to the plight of individual artists. Many are still worried about affordable housing, healthcare, simply earning a living wage for our art and not subsidizing our primary creative job(s) with non-arts related endeavors. And those concerns are nothing new. 
Don't get me wrong, I think artists more than ever should be involved in "Arts Advocacy", especially with the threat to the NEA. And I recommend all hands need to be on deck for Arts Advocacy Day coming up, March 20 to 21. But I think we're long overdue for a more intersectional platform of advocacy that puts artists first. And it's one that will need to be led by artists and supported by organizations.
What do you think?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

A [Completely New] Way of Life: Urban Sprawl

From TreeHugger quoting Shawn Lawrence Otto's Fool Me Twice, in a post from December 28, 2016:
In 1945, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began advocating for "dispersal," or "defense through decentralization" as the only realistic defense against nuclear weapons, and the federal government realized this was an important strategic move. Most city planners agreed, and America adopted a completely new way of life, one that was different from anything that had come before, by directing all new construction "away from congested central areas to their outer fringes and suburbs in low-density continuous development," and "the prevention of the metropolitan core's further spread by directing new construction into small, widely spaced satellite towns."
 Read the rest.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Not in the arts to make money? You might be privileged.

This morning's musings? Wondering about money and the arts, along with inclusion, diversity, equity, & accessibility (IDEA). More specifically wondering if the conotation of a mindset, "I'm not in the arts to make money" is a privileged one, and how that will keep us from moving the bar forward when it comes to representation in the arts, from audience to artists.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that few of us pursue this life because we "wannna be a billionaire (so frickin' bad)". But there's also the dichotomy that while artists aren't generally expected or supposed to make a living, arts administrators are. And often times, at least in the DC area, you have a majority of artists who are able to devote their time and energy to the arts because of another, often-times non arts related job, OR arts related but administratively, subsidizing their creative pursuits. But what about all those creatives that need the 2nd job to also make enough money on top of the first one, simply to surive. Because, personally I believe that if you're getting less than minimum wage for the number of hours you put in a project/production, we should start shifting the paradigm of one where artists are actually giving back all the dollar/hours that they're not getting compensated for. Mind you, I'm specifically thinking of performing arts at this point, and I apologize to my visual arts friends who's process doesn't track as well to artists rehearsal and performance schedules.

I should pause. I'm NOT saying that this is good or bad. This is simply the state of the arts right now. I guess my time at DCAYA has informed a lot of this, in terms of looking at what system level change looks like. And it starts with having the conversation. And while it can be very difficult to have objective, quantifiable conversations about the arts, I guess I'm just trying to figure out where it can start (or continue, for others that have already started it). Because if we shift how we can talk about money in the arts, then we can talk not just about how it is supported, but how the arts should be supported. It becomes easier to have the value conversation, and I believe this is going to be a conversation that will be increasingly important to have over the next four years. And this conversation will only move forward, or happen period, if artists shed their general fear of talking about money.

Finally for creatives, we seem to not use our creativity to put the time and energy to imagine and build new systems that would enable earning a living wage in the arts like we could, myself included. Because although not the same, race and class in this city are definitely and generally intertwined. And if we're not talking about class when we have these conversations about represntation, then we will always fall short of addressing the systemic roadblocks to inclusion, diversity, equity, & accesibility. At least I don't believe we will. And so if you ever say to someone, that you're not in the arts to make money, but you consider yourself a professional artist, I would say it might be an opportunity to possibly check your privilege.

With Burning Man's 2016 theme, they had a series of blogs which addressed this and started the conversation, and I'll wrap-up this post with this quote from one of the blogs:
Art and money have never been separable, but somehow the idea of talking about them together has become a great taboo. We admire “starving artists” in a way that we would never endorse for “starving teachers” or “starving firemen.” We have a notion deeply embedded in our culture that anybody who talks about doing art for the money must not be a “real” artist.
Read the rest of the blog. And let me know your thoughts in a comment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Headlines in the Arts: On Fair Wages and Culture Wars

So I thought I'd share some recent articles I've posted on other platforms. Don't know if this will begin happening regularly, but for now, I hope you find the following articles compelling.

Hashtag Fair Wage in the Offices Near the Stage, HowlRound, 12/16/16
Recently, one of the largest non-profit theatre companies in New York City (and in North America) put up a job posting for an Assistant to the Director of Development with a listed salary of $30,000-$35,000. There were no additional benefits specified. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, nor does this posting mean that someone will be getting $30,000 per year. It would be reasonable to assume that they are just posting the $30k scenario so that when they make an offer that’s slightly higher, the young, hungry development officer will be more likely to take the job.
Read on

‘Alt-Right’ Trolls Are Targeting DC’s DIY Music Houses, Washingtonian, 12/19/19
The Washington area has a long and mostly proud tradition of houses that lend themselves as venues for up-and-coming bands. But in the last few days, some residents of those houses have become guarded after discovering their homes’ names and addresses targeted in online message boards populated by members of the white nationalist movement known as the “alt-right.”
Read on

Trouble ahead for New York’s museums, Apollo Magazine, 12/19/19
There are few fans of Donald Trump among the management and boards of New York’s cultural institutions. Personal distaste aside, they are the beneficiaries of the trends that President-elect Trump has railed against: globalisation, and the unequal distribution of wealth that it has pulled in its train. They have been served well by the policies pursued from Bill Clinton’s presidency onward, of the liberalisation of trade and financial deregulation – policies that Donald Trump identified so forcefully during the election as responsible for the assault on middle America that he (ostensibly) and his voters (genuinely) wish to reverse.
Read on

Curious to hear what you think. Please leave a comment!