Tag Archives: arts funding

Generation Nexus: How CAN we fund the skills our future leaders will need?

By Trisha Pancio Mead

Self-confidence. Poise. Complex pattern recognition. Spatial relationships. Symmetry and paradox. Good design. Leadership. Collaborative, deadline-driven, results-oriented cooperative achievement. Proportion. Scale. Balance. Discipline. Persuasiveness. Empathy. And yes, innovation.

Are these values and skill sets that we want instilled in the next generation? The generation, let’s remember, that will ultimately be responsible for running the organizations, government entities and private businesses that are the backbone of Portland’s economy?

Science meets art: Woman teaching Euclidean geometry in 14th century painting. 1309 - 1316, France;The British LibraryOr, let’s get even more pragmatic here: What percentage of our future workforce would we like to see have a high school diploma? And is it worth $35 a year to ensure that, not only do more of Portland’s students graduate, they also graduate with self-confidence, discipline, empathy and the capacity for innovation?

Because, in its simplest terms, the funding mechanism proposed by the Creative Advocacy Network is designed to do exactly that: restore arts and music instruction and increase access to arts related experiences throughout Portland. On Saturday The Oregonian’s editorial board dismissed the proposal, arguing that art and music “are low priorities.” Oregon Arts Watch founder and editor Barry Johnson quickly filed this rebuttal, and Niel DePonte –  Oregon Symphony percussionist, music director of Oregon Ballet Theatre, Grammy nominee, founder/president of Metro Arts, Inc. – followed with this rebuttal printed in The Oregonian’s opinion section.

Why, in spite of The Oregonian’s objections, is this initiative crucial?

Continue reading Generation Nexus: How CAN we fund the skills our future leaders will need?

Guvs duck art; pick a peck o’ PICA

By Bob Hicks

Over at Oregon Live, Friend of Scatter D.K. Row reports that Oregon’s two major gubernatorial candidates, Demo John Kitzhaber and the GOP’s Chris Dudley, have pretty much nothing to say about how they would or wouldn’t approach statewide funding and other support for the arts. Both ducked a request by the statewide lobbying group Cultural Advocacy Coalition to talk it out in a town hall meeting before the election. And both ducked the chance to comment to D.K. for his story.

Timberline Lodge: the last word in Oregon cultural funding? Photo: Kelvin Kay/Wikimedia CommonsNo surprise here. With the state budget circling the toilet bowl and getting ready for the big flush, neither candidate is likely to come out promising anything to anyone about arts and culture. Remember last year, when the Democrat-dominated legislature raided the state’s supposedly sacrosanct Cultural Trust fund in an attempt to pay the bills.

Portland city commish Nick Fish, who’s also a board member of the Cultural Trust, called the candidates’ no-talk “a missed opportunity.” But even some arts leaders expressed sympathy for a pair of guys caught between a rock and a hard place. “When I think of the immense economic problems the next governor has to solve, my stomach hurts,” Chris Coleman told Row. “The notion of even advancing a cultural agenda would be hard right now. So I understand. If I was running for governor, it’d be hard for me to find time for the arts.” Coleman is artistic director of Portland Center Stage. He also happens to be board president of the Creative Advocacy Network, Portland’s coalition of arts boosters in the political ring.

Whoever wins the governor’s race, don’t be expecting a neo-WPA, folks. The feds are pretty much out of this picture, FDR’s kicked the bucket, and we already got our Timberline Lodge. Arts and culture will be looking at a lot of pay-as-you-go. Oops. That’s sort of what the Cultural Trust was before the big raid, wasn’t it?


The trouble with TBA, the annual late summer/early fall festival thrown by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, is that it always hits town in late summer/early fall.

A lot of people set their annual calendars around this thing. Here at Art Scatter, it always sneaks up on us, and, too often, slips right past us. We tend to be traveling a lot this time of year, and preparing young heathens for schooling, and tending to such crucial matters as putting up the annual supplies of pickles and chutney.

All of which is to say that (like the guv guys on arts funding) we have pretty much nothing to say about TBA this year. Fortunately, several other keen observers do. Here are a few places to look for news and comment:

Arts Dispatch. Barry Johnson sees and extrapolates.

Urban Honking. PICA’s own site invites such luminaries as Mead Hunter of Blogorrhea to do the Monday morning quarterbacking.

Oregon Live. Expect steady updates from The Oregonian’s cultural squad.

Culturephile. Anne Adams and Claudia La Rocco have been pickin’ em and writin’ em for Portland Monthly’s blog.


PHOTO: Timberline Lodge: the last word in Oregon cultural funding? Kelvin Kay/Wikimedia Commons

Thursday scatter: money and manure

“Money, pardon the expression, is like manure,” the indefatigable Dolly Levi maintains in Thornton Wilder‘s stage comedy The Matchmaker. “It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”

Actress Ruth Gordon in 1919, at age 23. Wikimedia CommonsFunny, isn’t it, that both money and manure hit the fan in the world of politics? This isn’t a condemnation. It’s the necessary nature of the political beast. You shovel and shovel, and spread and spread, and hope you’ve put the seeds in the right places. In tough times, the process tends to get heavy on manure and light on money — and these, as you might have noticed, are tough times. Do we spend our way out of our economic mess, or batten the hatches and risk total shutdown?

It’s a red-flag question for partisan bulls and bears, and trying to step through the muck dispassionately, looking for solid footing, is no easy chore. Dolly, I suppose, is a liberal, although at the time the play hit Broadway in 1955 she might have been considered an early Rockefeller Republican.

When it comes to money and the arts, Oregon has a long tradition of deciding there just isn’t enough manure to go around. The state’s system of cultural spending is a little more like the theory behind growing world-class wine grapes in a marginal climate: stress the vines, and they’ll concentrate their fruit better.

Continue reading Thursday scatter: money and manure

The Culture Wars, version 2009: It’s beginning to look a lot like infighting

Winslow Homer, Bayonet Charge, Harper's Weekly, 1862/Wikimedia Commons

Rocco Landesman has barely been confirmed as new leader of the National Endowment for the Arts, and already it’s beginning to look like Bull Run.

To be fair, Landesman fired first.

We’re going to get away from this democracy-for-the-sake-of-democracy idea, he told the New York Times, and back to setting some good old-fashioned standards. No more spreading cash around just to be geographically correct. Money’s going to flow to quality — and that’s much more likely to be found in a big mainstream operation like Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre than in some little theater in Peoria.

Now the <100K Project (motto: “Bringing the Arts Back Home”) has fired back, branding Landesman as an anti-democratic elitist who equates art with money and power and who fundamentally misunderstands that art belongs to everyone. The post is worth reading, complete with comments.

It’s important to understand that these combatants, while they may be equally committed to the idea of art, are coming from very different places. The <100K Project is concerned with nurturing art in communities with less than 100,000 population: It believes that culture is everywhere, and has an intensely local base. Landesman is an urban high-roller, a big-deal Broadway producer who believes (and I hope I’m not putting false words in his mouth) that the best art and artists tend to accrue in large population centers — our New Yorks and Chicagos and the like — and are therefore the art and artists that must be kept flourishing. If “lesser” art sources in “lesser” places die in the process … well, that’s the price of ensuring quality.

It’s an old question, and always prone to pendulum swings. Who is art for? Is it participatory or inspirational? Do we travel to where it is, or bring it to where we are? There’s a history here: Too bad if you’re a Peoria or Portland and can’t afford the best. If you’re a Pendleton or Prineville, you’re not even in the discussion. The wealthy and otherwise privileged can travel to world cultural centers to experience the best. For the rest, well, there’s always TV. The abandonment of small towns and even medium-sized cities in the new economics is a social and cultural issue of real and under-discussed importance.

Yet quality IS an issue. We DO want to recognize that some things are better than others, and we do believe that those things should survive. So where are we: In a sectarian battle between big and small? Worrying about an issue that doesn’t exist? Jumping the gun on our ideas of who Landesman is and what he’ll do?

Oregon has consistently been treated as a colonial outpost in the national cultural game, as it has been in politics and economics. Even in the recent share-the-wealth days of NEA chairmen Bill Ivey and Dana Gioia, Oregon has had less NEA money returned to it than strictly statistical disbursement based on its share of the national population would dictate. One explanation (a pretty weak one) for that has been that money allotted to larger states can also be beneficial to smaller ones: Radio broadcasts of the Metroplitan Opera, for instance, that go to stations across the country.

Who’s right in this argument? Which way should the NEA go? Is it possible that both quality and geography can be served? Let’s hear your ideas.