VOL. 12 NO. 3
The Blue Moon is published bi-monthly by the Kentucky Arts
Council, a state agency in the Commerce Cabinet. Please send comments, questions
and information to the Blue Moon, Kentucky Arts Council, Old Capitol Annex,
300 West Broadway, Frankfort, KY 40601-1980 or call 502-564-3757, toll free
Kentucky Journalist Attends NEA Arts Journalism Institute
Carla Carlton appeared before the National Endowment for the Art's advisory council in Washington D.C. last month to give a testimonial about the classical music and opera institute, which she described as the best professional development opportunity of her career. She has worked at The Courier-Journal in Louisville for 17 years, the last four as Arts & Entertainment editor.
Classical Music Boot Camp
By Carla Carlton
Last fall, I was one of 25 journalists selected for the inaugural National Arts Journalism Program in Classical Music and Opera at Columbia University in New York City. It was one of three institutes funded by the National Endowment for the Arts; the others focused on dance (at Duke University) and theater (at the University of Southern California).
All three were intended to improve coverage and criticism of the arts by better educating arts writers and editors outside the major media markets who might not (and most likely don't) have any training in the areas they write about. At Columbia, for instance, we would cover the rudiments and history of classical music and opera from the 18th century to the present.
In two weeks.
We wrote reviews that were evaluated in small workshops by writers from publications such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. As the only editor in the group, I had edited dozens of reviews but had never written one. The experience was nerve-wracking but ultimately exhilarating and elevated my respect for the critics I work with to a new level.
We were also assigned to write a "critics notebook." While many of my fellow Columbia fellows tackled very specific issues related to their areas of coverage, I found myself thinking more generally about how newspapers cover the arts - especially newspapers the size of mine and smaller, with limited space and resources.
The "classical music crisis" was a theme that ran through the institute, and several arts leaders placed part of the blame for the public's declining interest in the arts on newspapers' declining coverage. I wondered: What is the role of the mainstream press -- leader or follower? How can newspapers be advocates for the arts? Here is a shortened form of what I came up with.
Choose to cover the arts.
Karen Hopkins, president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, acknowledged that newspapers must reflect what their readers are already interested in. But, she asked us, is it really necessary to have a fourth story about reality television?
Some may argue that if newspapers start explaining everything, they're actually exacerbating the problem - dumbing things down and alienating the more educated core audience. But as Brooklyn Academy of Music's Hopkins pointed out, making stories accessible and dumbing them down are two different things. "There's no need to eliminate music terminology from newspaper stories about classical music, for instance," said Alex Ross of the New Yorker. Just give the less-familiar reader an explanatory phrase to connect to - a lifeline - and get it over quickly, so that readers can "leap over it and land safely on the other side."
Above all, stamp out pretentiousness. Most people are eager to learn, but they don't want to start by hearing how stupid they are. "Beware the opera buff," said Columbia University professor Karen Henson -- the "expert" who revels in making high culture seem like an exclusive club that doesn't need any new members, thank you.
Find the passion.
Most artists have that passion -- it's what makes their work vital and exciting. And yet that's precisely what journalists so often miss in stories about the arts, particularly the high arts.
Newspapers suck the life out by focusing on the "If you go" nuts-and-bolts stuff: The concert is this Saturday at 8 and tickets are $37.50 and you'd probably better dress up. Wouldn't you rather read about how you can hear the yearning in every movement of the Janacek piece to be played Saturday night because it was written for his muse, who did not return his affections? Or that the concertmaster loves this particular passage of the concerto so much that he can barely stay in his chair when he plays it?
To write stories like that, reporters must tap back into their own passion -- the passion to communicate. If they can do that, they won't just be advocates for the arts. They will be better journalists.
The National Endowment for the Arts has funded the institutes in classical music, dance and theater for at least one more year. All major expenses are covered, including travel, room and board and tickets to performances. For more information, visit www.arts.gov and click on National Initiatives.
President Bush Requests Level Funding for National Arts Endowment
On March 10, Dana Gioia, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), appeared before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to present the Bush administration's FY 2006 budget request to hold spending for the arts endowment at the 2005 level of $121.264 million.
Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) welcomed Gioia to the subcommittee hearing with praise for his work "to restore respect" to the NEA from both parties in Congress. Gioia's testimony focused on highlighting several special initiatives developed over the last two years to reach large and small communities across the country, including Shakespeare in American Communities, NEA Jazz Masters, Operation Homecoming, and Challenge America. He said that Challenge America had "become part of the DNA of the NEA," working to make the arts endowment funding more equitable by extending the reach of federal arts support to all but two congressional districts.
In response to a question from Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) about what projects would not get funding with a flat budget, Gioia replied that with applications up by 33 percent over the past four years, the NEA finds itself awarding more grants of smaller amounts. He also explained that the endowment has supplemented its annual appropriation with private funding, pointing to support from Sallie Mae, for example, to pay for educational materials accompanying the Shakespeare in American Communities program.
The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and other arts advocates are working with supportive members of Congress to develop an amendment for House floor consideration in early summer to increase the NEA's FY06 budget.
Americans For The Arts and Arts & Business Council, Inc. Merge
Private-sector support for the arts from individuals, foundations, and corporations represents a critical piece of arts funding in America. However, the larger private-sector relationship with the arts has changed dramatically in recent years. While corporate and foundation leaders continue to support the arts, recent modest gains in overall giving disguise the fact that the market share of total philanthropy devoted to the nonprofit arts has declined by nearly one-third since the early 1990s.
In an effort to reverse this very troubling trend, the board of directors for Americans For The Arts and the board of directors for Arts & Business Council Inc. voted unanimously in February to merge the two organizations, effective immediately. Combining their resources and programming initiatives will enable them to more effectively achieve their goals of increasing private-sector support for the arts in America. Both groups are excited about the opportunities that the merger presents.
Americans For The Arts is the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. With more than 40 years of service, it is dedicated to representing and serving local communities, and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts.
Arts & Business Council, Inc. is devoted to stimulating partnerships between the arts and business that benefit both sectors and the communities they serve. It is the oldest such arts and business partnership association in the world. Initially limited to local services in New York City, Arts & Business Council, Inc. now runs national programs such as Business Volunteers for the Arts and The National Arts Marketing Project and has 17 affiliates. The current national work of Arts & Business Council Inc. will become the Arts & Business Council of Americans for the Arts.
The services that members receive will improve as we implement strategies for increasing individual, corporate, and foundation support at the national level, says Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of Americans For The Arts. Perhaps even more importantly, they will be developing tools for doing the same at the local level. The merger will result in new private sector-based publications, services, and programs designed to increase awareness of the arts by arts patrons and corporate and foundation leaders.
All of this with no increase in dues!
Southern Arts Federation Searches for a New Executive Director
The Southern Arts Federation (SAF) is conducting a nation-wide search for a new executive director. While the search is underway, Betsy C. Baker, formerly the executive Director of the Georgia Council for the Arts, will serve as Interim Director.
Originally established under the leadership of the National Endowment of the Arts in 1975, the Southern Arts Federation is a not-for-profit regional arts organization that has been making a positive difference in the arts throughout the South. In partnership with nine other state arts agencies, Southern Arts Federation works collaboratively and cooperatively with other regional, national and international organizations while serving as the leadership voice for the arts in the region. Southern Arts Federation also works to sustain and expand markets for Southern arts, artists and arts organizations, and provides technical assistance and other developmental resources.
For more information, please visit www.southarts.org or call Martin Godwin of Anderson & Associates, SAF's executive search firm, at (704) 347-0090. Interested individuals should submit a cover letter and resume via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artists' Charitable Contributions Bill Introduced in House
On March 3, Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN) introduced the Artists' Contribution to American Heritage Act of 2005, H.R.1120, designed to extend to artists a full, fair-market value deduction for the charitable contributions of their own literary, musical, artistic or scholarly compositions. The measure is identical to legislation introduced in the last Congress by Rep. Amo Houghton (R-NY), now retired, and a companion piece to the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, S.372, introduced a month ago in the Senate by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT).
The artist deduction bill has finally made it hearing. The following is a link to the Americans for the Arts Web page about this topic. To voice your support for this bill with your congressman, go here.