The California Arts Council is in jeopardy of losing its recently won ability to solicit donations via state income tax forms.
Beginning last year, filers could donate to the state’s chronically underfunded arts grant-making agency by checking off a box on their tax return, then adding the amount they wanted to contribute to their payment or subtracting it from their refund.
The arts council received $164,298 that way during 2011 -– not a negligible amount for an agency with a budget of only $5.2 million. Donations came from 16,580 taxpayers, for an average contribution of $9.91.
But the 2010 legislation that gave the arts council its checkoff box says it will disappear from future tax forms unless it generates at least $250,000 this year, then rises each subsequent year by at least the rate of inflation.
The early returns for 2012 are not encouraging. According to data on the Franchise Tax Board’s website, checkoff contributions totaled $25,820 in January and February, down from $26,112 a year ago. To keep its box, the arts council needs at least a 52% increase, not a marginal decline.
Does star power matter on Capitol Hill?
Well, here’s something to ponder: Last April 5, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey were scheduled to address a House appropriations hearing as part of the annual Arts Advocacy Day organized by Americans for the Arts, which spearheads the arts-lobbying effort in Washington.
Their appearance got canceled, and congressional ears missed the two actors’ pitches for averting the 12.6% budget cut that President Obama was then proposing for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Three days later, congressional leaders struck a temporary budget deal that reduced NEA funding by 7.5%. Then, when Congress got around to passing the 2011-12 federal budget, it deepened the cut to 12.7%. The NEA was left with $146.2 million to spend, down from the $167.5 it had commanded when the year began.
It’s debatable whether star-powered oratory really would have helped -- 2011, you’ll recall, was a year in which Washington was consumed by a near-impasse over how much to cut the federal deficit, prompting fears that the government might shut down entirely.
Now it’s time to deliberate on a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, and Americans for the Arts is again bringing star power to bear, in hopes of securing a modest recovery for the nation's arts grantmaking agency. On Thursday, actor Stanley Tucci (pictured in "Hunger Games" with its star, Jennifer Lawrence) and Americans for the Arts President Robert Lynch are scheduled to address the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior. The goal, says Americans for the Arts, is to raise the NEA’s budget to $155 million -- a 6% increase that would be slightly more than the $154.3 million that Obama recently proposed.
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.
What does California have less of than nearly every other state in the union? Per capita spending money for state-funded arts grants.
And what does it have more of? Cars and stars.
Now the California Arts Council, the grant-making agency whose funding (currently 13 cents per capita) had landed it in last place nationally for eight consecutive years before Kansas saved it from the cellar this year by stopping all arts spending, aims to harness the Golden State's bounty of celebrities and motorists in hopes of relieving its dearth of arts grants.
A major redesign is in the works for Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, which is gearing up for what its president says will be the largest fundraising campaign in its history to pay for an expansion of its south campus and renovations to its distinctive, elongated main campus set into a hillside about five miles to the north.
Art Center, often ranked among the nation’s top design schools, announced Tuesday that it has spent $7 million to buy a former U.S. Postal Service mail distribution center next to its existing satellite campus in south Pasadena, and has hired the Los Angeles firm Michael Maltzan Architecture to do master planning and design work.
Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, came to Watts and neighboring Willowbrook on Thursday for walking tours and briefings on how $720,000 in grants funded or coordinated by the NEA is being spent.
The money was generated by Our Town and ArtPlace, two programs begun under Landesman that aim to use the arts as a tool for neighborhood improvement and fostering economic growth.
But a major new California state policy works at cross-purposes to what Landesman is trying to accomplish on a federal level. From the late 1960s on, municipal redevelopment agencies in the state often funded arts and cultural projects on the same theory that guides Our Town and ArtPlace -- that in addition to their aesthetic and educational value, arts attractions foster tourism, an engaged and active citizenry, and economic growth.
Those efforts ended on Feb. 1, when California's redevelopment agencies, which were created to fight urban blight and promote economic activity, ceased to exist. Driven by the budget crises lingering over Sacramento and municipalities, and questioning the efficacy of redevelopment spending, Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature abolished the agencies so that billions of dollars in property taxes they'd controlled could be diverted to other government purposes.
More than $350 million in arts projects have been funded by redevelopment agencies in Los Angeles County over the past 45 years, including construction of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Grand Avenue headquarters ($23 million) and the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts ($60 million).
President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget, released Monday, calls for a 5% increase in spending for three cultural grantmaking agencies and three Washington, D.C., arts institutions.
Obama aims to boost outlays from $1.501 billion to $1.576 billion, encompassing the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities (NEA and NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Gallery of Art.
The arts and humanities endowments each would get a 5.5% boost, to $154.255 million -- nearly restoring cuts announced in December. But if Congress approves the president’s proposal for the fiscal year that begins in October 2012, the NEA and NEH will still be well short of the $167.5 million each was set to receive before two separate rounds of cuts instigated by Congressional Republicans during 2011.
Obama is proposing $231.9 million for IMLS, a $439,000 reduction.
The Smithsonian Institution, by far the heavy hitter of federal cultural spending, would receive $856.8 million -- a 3.7% hike for its operating budget, which would rise to $660.3 million, and a 12.3% increase in capital expenditures, to $196.5 million. The biggest capital expense would be $85 million, to continue construction on the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.
The most generous members of the 1% devoted more than 2% of their charitable giving last year to arts and culture, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which issued Monday its annual ranking of America’s 50 most generous donors.
Reporters for the Chronicle found specific donations of at least $1 million to arts and cultural institutions by 12 of the 50, totaling $213.4 million.
The Philanthropy 50, as the Chronicle calls them, gave $10.4 billion in total charitable donations in 2011, more than three times the $3.3 billion they donated in 2010.
Just about all of that increase can be attributed to Margaret A. Cargill of La Jolla, who died in 2006, leaving a bequest to two foundations she had established, resulting in gifts that the Chronicle placed at $6 billion. Cargill, needless to say, was No. 1 in the rankings.
Stephen Eich, who played a leading role in helping the Pasadena Playhouse survive a financial near-death experience during more than 2 1/2 years as its executive director, has resigned, saying he feels “a great sense of satisfaction in what I’ve accomplished” as he moves on to other ventures, including independent theater production.
Playhouse officials announced his departure Thursday, saying the parting is amicable and that they appreciate Eich’s work as the Playhouse -- L.A.’s third-biggest nonprofit stage company after Center Theatre Group and the Geffen Playhouse -- went through a turbulent 2010 that saw it close for eight months and go through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Sheldon Epps, the Playhouse’s longtime artistic director, said he’s grateful to Eich (pictured above at right, with Epps and Playhouse board chair Michele Dedeaux Engemann) for staying when “he could have cut and run” after realizing shortly after his hiring in mid-2009 that the Playhouse was in woeful fiscal shape. When it filed for bankruptcy in May 2010, it was $2.3 million in debt, with just $102,000 in cash and savings.
“He gave stalwart service to the theater with real dedication and intelligence and passion, and served us extremely well during a tough time,” Epps said Thursday.
Frank Gehry’s first project for a stage company –- the new home of Manhattan’s Signature Theatre –- will be named the Pershing Square Signature Center, thanks to a $25-million gift announced Thursday during the run-up to the venue’s opening on Tuesday.
The $66-million facility on 42nd Street takes its name from its benefactor, Pershing Square Capital Management, a New York-based hedge fund whose contribution will primarily subsidize low ticket prices to encourage attendance by new and diverse audiences.
It houses three stages, with seating capacities of 199, 244 and 294. The complex is at the foot of a 63-story, mixed-use glass tower developed by the Related Companies. Gehry designed only the theater center, which will debut with a production of Athol Fugard’s “Blood Knot,” directed by the playwright.
The National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities each will see a 5.6% budget reduction in fiscal 2012 under a spending bill passed Friday in the House that's expected to prevent a feared government shutdown.
Under the bill, each agency would have $146.3 million to spend during the budget year that began in October, down from $155 million. It's the second cut this year for the two grant-making agencies, which began 2011 with budgets of $167.5 million. The combined cuts now total 12.7%.
Americans for the Arts, the national advocacy group that lobbies to maximize arts spending -– or at least to minimize arts-spending cuts -– said that $146.3 million is what President Obama had penciled in in his original budget proposal for the NEA and the NEH, representing a compromise between the $155 million suggested by the Senate and the $135 million proposed by the House during earlier subcommittee negotiations over the budget.
The Senate passed the spending bill Saturday morning, and it now moves to President Obama for his signature.