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.