Sunday, January 11, 2009

Has anyone noticed that Cincinnati City Council voted to eliminate all funding for arts organizations from the 2009 city budget?

Cincinnati City Council voted to eliminate all funding for arts organizations from the 2009 city budget. Reducing arts spending from the general fund by about $360,000.

This includes established support for the major organizations--(symphony, opera, art museum, playhouse, etc) AND the Competitive Arts Grant Program for Small Arts organizations. It also includes an end to the newly established fair-process capital grants for arts organizations.

To make matters worse, Council decided to award most of what little money was left for the arts to pet projects of their own,  undermining the established grant programs which were at least open to anyone eligible who wanted to apply. 

They left the arts community with $35,000 for individual artists, BUT Mr. Cranley decided that more than half --$20,000--of that should go to archive or exhibit the work of commercial photographer, C Smith, a project that would be ineligble for established competitive individual artist grants for up $6,000.

Similarly, all of the arts-related  capital funding ($250,000) will go to the new Clifton Cultural Art Center. a project selected for funding by Roxanne Qualls. 

Council has simultaneously eliminated most of the funding at the same time that they have substituted a granting system based on political earmarks and back room deals. 

Does anybody care? If you do, please post a comment, or better still make a suggestion for how we can organize to show that we do care.


Ron said...

Yesterday Councilmember Qualls sent the following letter to many in the arts community out about her position on the arts, what happened during the budget, and how she hopes to repair some of the damage.

One of the things that seems to have people confused is the capital arts grants. The grants that were just awarded by the Arts Allocation Committee a few months ago will be funded. These are separate from the money that was cut, which is for future capital arts grants.

Be assured that Councilmember Qualls would like to see this money restored and will work to that end.

Ron Wahl
Assistant to Councilmember Roxanne Qualls
Ph: (513)352-6228 Fax: (513)352-3621

Dear Friend of the Arts:

Investing in the arts is an important way to revitalize both the spirit and economy of Cincinnati. It is an investment that creates jobs, enhances the quality of life, and builds a competitive economy. That’s why I proposed increasing funding for the competitive arts grants for small arts organizations and individual artists in my December 5budget motion. Although there was a need to make budget cuts, I preferred to follow a balanced approach that left most of the existing arts funding intact. I also recommended $375,000 in additional funding for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center (CCAC). The CCAC continues the effort to renew our neighborhoods through the arts. The Kennedy Heights Arts Center, the Covedale Performing Arts Center, and the Madisonville Arts Center are examples of previous neighborhood-based arts investments. The recommended funding source for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center was the General Capital Fund. In my original budget motion there was no reduction of the existing capital arts funding.

Many of my original arts recommendations did not survive the final budget negotiations. What finally passed was funding for individual artists and the annual capital arts funding for the City-owned arts facilities: Music Hall, the Art Museum, and Museum Center. Funding for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center was included for $250,000.

Earlier this year, Council was about to pass an ordinance that transferred $176,000, which had been granted to the Ensemble Theatre for its proposed expansion, into the General Fund to be used for other purposes. I sponsored the motion that Council passed to restore the funding to the Ensemble Theatre.

The recent budget decisions have not affected any of the Competitive Capital Arts Grants that were recently recommended by the Arts Allocation Committee. The City is now preparing ordinances for each organization that was awarded a grant. Council will pass them soon.

The budget passed by Council is for 2009-2010. Midway through every budget there is an opportunity to make adjustments. That will happen next December. I hope to work with members of Council to restore the future competitive capital arts grants and competitive small arts operating grants during the adjustment.

Arts add vitality to our City. They help attract new residents. They revitalize our neighborhoods. And they are an investment in our economy.

A strong arts community is good for everyone and the consequences for reducing arts funding are real. Over the next year I will work to get the funding restored.

Warm regards,

Roxanne Qualls, Councilmember

Save Cincinnati Arts said...

Here is the response that I sent to Roxanne Qualls earlier today:

Dear Ms. Qualls,
Thank you for your email addressing the elimination of funding for all arts organizations in the recent City Budget.
I appreciate your dedication to the arts and your promised efforts to restore funding to the competitive arts grant programs.

A year ago, Council took a big step forward by establishing an open application process for Small Arts Organizations to distribute $300,000 of capital funding.
I am glad to hear that the grants made from that process will be honored in the months ahead.

I am, however, profoundly disappointed that capital funds for 2009 have been offered to a single arts organization that did not go through this newly established process. I see nothing wrong with the Clifton Cultural Arts Center--although I am concerned about the number of underused community arts centers that have been cropping up all over town, and I am not persuaded that this piecemeal strategy is the best way to maintain the vitality of our diverse arts community.

That said, the main value of PUBLIC funding for the arts is that artists and art projects are funded in the interest of all citizens, not just the wealthy and the well-connected who have access to private foundations and the ear of politicians.

I hope that you will be able to include in your support of the arts support for arts planning. I would rather see a small amount of arts spending that was carefully thought out, then larger chunks of taxpayer money spend without vision or clear goals for the arts future of our city.

I hope that you will continue to keep in touch with the arts community in the months ahead, and let us know how we might assist you with getting arts grants to organizations restored to the city budget.
Best wishes,
Kristin Dietsche

Jason Franz said...

Sent to Roxanne Qualls in response to her letter: (note that this was partially to inform her about our own organization and the relationship of City public funding to our existence.)

Dear Ms. Qualls,

Thank you for your note. I can understand the need to send this because of the severity of the City budget impact on the arts and the perceptions that go along with this.

Also, thank you for recommending an increase in arts funding. It is unfortunate that recommendations are not where the buck stops. It's how the negotiations and compromises are crafted that ultimately reflect the reality of the situation. So I'm sure you realize how awkward it is for those of us in the midst of survival mode to see the CCAC getting an absolutely incredible amount of funding (on top of previous incredible amounts of funding) while we are left out in the cold. This is so very demoralizing to say the least.

I am the executive director and co-founder of Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center in East Walnut Hills. We were founded in 2004 and are now in the midst of our fifth public season of operations. For the past three years Manifest has received the maximum amount (or nearly the max.) of small arts organization funding from the City and the Haile Foundation. This funding amounts to 3% of that approved for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. Yet this amount is equivalent to our entire annual expenses for rent and utilities at Manifest, including our offices. Without this funding, or the fair chance to earn it, we will be sorely challenged to maintain our existence in the East Walnut Hills community. 

Furthermore, frustration at this apparent inequity is compounded by the mention of the other 'art centers' that have received investment by large City grants. As I have heard it explained, these were awarded not on a competitive or public basis, but by virtue of connections behind the scenes.

I realize it is my responsibility to inform you and other council members, as well as the public, about the value of our own organization's contributions. Perhaps I have not done that well enough. Those that are aware of Manifest have been unanimously supportive and appreciative. If fact, most are amazed that we are capable of running such a strong and far-reaching non-profit business with such a small footprint, but with a large impact. But it is not as easy as we make it seem. And we certainly need the moral and financial support of the public and our City leaders to continue on track.

Manifest is clearly different than the other organizations you mention, on many levels. For that reason I would hope you and others would see the value we bring to East Walnut Hills and Cincinnati. We have a finely honed mission that focuses all our energy exclusively towards the visual arts. As I'm sure you're aware, it is the visual arts that provide the most challenging problem with regard to attracting attendance and maintaining the attention of audiences. It is difficult to compete with event-based arts and other activities like sports. Yet we are here to tackle that problem, and take a stand for the value of the visual arts here and around the world. So what we offer is quite clear. And we are very good at what we do.

In four and a half seasons Manifest has presented forty-seven exhibits including works of art by 342 artists from around the world. In these exhibits 53 different academic institutions from across the U.S. have been represented by exceptional works of art by students. This student work is shown alongside that of professionals, as well as in annual student exhibits. We have documented every exhibit in 32 full-color catalogs which is something I can honestly say I do not know of any other museum or gallery doing every exhibit. Furthermore Manifest has produced three large format full-color publications of the International Drawing Annual exhibit-in-print which is a competitive annual project that presents works of contemporary drawing and writing about drawing from around the world. These have included 107 artists from as far away as Tehran, Iran.

This makes up about one-half of our programming. The other half, deliberately balanced in concept, is our studio program. The Manifest Drawing Center Studio is currently housed at the Essex Studios Complex in Walnut Hills. Here we offer hundreds of hours of valuable life-drawing opportunities, and dozens of courses in drawing instructed by some of the very best (award winning) artists in Cincinnati.

Manifest serves local artists, students, and the public in so many ways. At the same time we serve artists from around the world. Manifest is very well known nationally as a place where things happen, and where artists compete feverishly to exhibit their work - yes, in our small space that was once a blighted unoccupied building on Woodburn Avenue in East Walnut Hills near DeSales corner. Manifest represents Cincinnati to the world, and brings the world to Cincinnati one work of art at a time.

My point in explaining this, besides to simply inform you about our organization, is to underscore the critical situation in the arts. All the things I've described seem much larger than the small funding in question from the City. But the lack of this funding, and the lack of acknowledgment of the City support in our future programming hurts Manifest, our community in East Walnut Hills, and the people of the City of Cincinnati in a multitude of ways. It is a financial AND symbolic loss. 

One of our operational attitudes subscribes to the chaos theory. That is, that a small thing here can make a huge impact elsewhere. So, for Manifest to receive 3% of the funding that the CCAC is getting makes all we do possible, around the world, by providing basic sustenance for our operations. Likewise, for that funding to disappear, a consequential negative impact of similarly magnified proportions is likely to occur. This theory of exponential returns works both positively and negatively.

It is our hope that Manifest will someday soon be on the receiving end of successful recommendations to City Council. It is also our hope, for the sake of the vitality of the City and the well-being of its citizens that a healthy and fair arts funding process for all arts organizations is established and maintained.

Thank you again for being a champion for the arts. I regret that your efforts to maintain arts funding failed. I would be very happy to discuss Manifest or the arts in general with you in more detail at any time. 

Most sincerely,

Jason Franz
Executive Director
Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center