FROM TC: Based on the large number of responses to yesterday's edition of YCM, I decided to do a follow-up today so I could include some more viewpoints.
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Commentary: Landesman is wrong to offer his economic opinions
Posted by Ben Donenberg of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, February 1, 2011
As a Member of the National Council on the Arts, the oversight body for the National Endowment for the Arts, I respectfully and energetically disagree with Rocco Landesman's assertion that demand [for the arts] will not grow. I think it's important that readers understand that Landesman's opinions are his own and do not represent an official agency opinion. While he may have the pulpit and position to air his personal views, I do wish he'd be more thoughtful about their consequences -- particularly in light of the fact that two weeks ago 165 elected members of Congress called for the defunding of the NEA. Chairman Landesmann is not a trained Supply Side Economist. Despite his self-esteem for his economic theories he really is completely unqualified to propose supply side economic models. He's basing his assumptions on research that was not gathered for economics forecasting. Nor is the research for the participation survey statistically sophisticated enough for economic forecasting or modeling. The National Endowment for the Arts just published a new Strategic Plan that calls for supporting broadest access possible for the most excellent art in the nation. Rocco's skin-diving into economic theories side tracks him from the mission of the agency, while he indulges himself and distresses the nation's arts community in self-important musings that have little veracity and are not part of his job description.
Commentary: Landesman is right and the arts sector needs to rethink capital needs
Posted by Rebecca Thomas on the Nonprofit Finance Fund's blog, February 1, 2011
We at the NFF applaud the views expressed by NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman in his recent blog. On the supply side, he suggests that funders like the NEA invest more in the most creative and dynamic organizations, regardless of their budget size. On the demand side, he offers ideas for increased audience participation and questions whether the field needs to become more "lightly institutionalized" in order to get more creativity to more audiences, ostensibly at lower cost. The conversation about supply and demand in the sector would greatly benefit from an equally passionate debate about the breadth and amounts of capital required to support change on such an environmental scale. Indeed today, the vast majority of arts organizations are "mis-capitalized," meaning that they are unevenly or inappropriately funded and financed (and not necessarily that they don't have enough capital). Mis-capitalized organizations are financially structured in ways that stymie their ability to propel and sustain their artistic aspirations. If individual arts organizations and the sector are to thrive in the future, donors must change their funding and financing practices, aligning capital to the supply-changing or demand-building tasks at hand. Likewise, cultural nonprofits must take action to establish stronger business models that redress mis-capitalization and ensure their artistic relevance and excellence.
Commentary: Arts are a passion business; economic arguments won't change that
Posted by Adam Thurman on his blog Mission Paradox, January 31, 2011
So a person with a decently large profile (at least for the arts) says the demand for the arts is dropping and therefore the supply of arts organizations should decrease. Even if you agree entirely with his point, I think that what Rocco is saying is True But Useless. The arts are a passion business and all the economic arguments in the world aren't going to stop people who feel like they must create art through an organization. So let's get past the provocative nature of his statement and let's consider this idea: Demand can be increased. Sometimes it can even be created out of nothing at all. I'm typing this blog post at my house. Across from the table [is] my HDTV. 10 years ago I wasn't looking at my old standard definition TV and looking for a better picture image. I didn't even know that was a possibility until it happened. You can think of many more products, organizations or causes that people were not necessarily begging for when they started. It's happened before and it could happen with your art. [However,] if you're going to come out with programming, marketing, fundraising and an organizational structure that looks like your larger competitors, then you can pretty much toss your dreams away. If you can challenge traditional thinking, not just in your art but in the entire scope your operation, then you can start to attract those people who are looking for what's new, what's fresh and what's next. That's when you can increase demand.
Commentary: "From a motivational sense, what Landesman has done is remarkable"
Posted by Chad Bauman on his blog Arts Marketing, January 30, 2011
The data shows that, at this moment in time, there is too little demand and too much supply. That is fact, not opinion. Where I believe Chairman Landesman drew sharp criticism was at his suggestion that we have to decrease supply, because we can't increase demand. Many marketers immediately went on the defensive, stating that of course we could increase demand (it is the job of marketers to create demand for art, right?). I respond by saying if you could increase demand to meet the current supply, then why aren't you? This isn't an acute symptom we are discussing, but a chronic trend. Marketers are not super humans. We cannot on our own create an infinite amount of demand to meet the skyrocketing numbers of non-profit arts organizations. The data shows that we are out of balance, and whether we want to admit it or not, we can only live out of balance for so long before outside pressures will return the system to stasis. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing I want more than to prove Landesman wrong, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. From a motivational sense, what Landesman has done is remarkable. There is nothing that unites artists like telling them they can't do something. By nature, we are counter culture. We like to swim against the current. We need a challenge. Well, Landesman has thrown down the gauntlet. So, if you so passionately believe he is wrong, my question quite simply is -- what are you going to do about it?
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NEA helps fund new digital map to track the development of new plays
From Variety, February 1, 2011
[In addition to] controversy-baiting remarks from Rocco Landesman at the American Voices New Play Institute confab, [another] major discussion thread at the conference centered on improving dialogue about new play development within the Balkanized theater community -- especially the various new digital ventures being created to enable it. Unveiled at the conclave was the "New Play Map," a user-generated, real-time map of the national new works infrastructure. Interactive and open sourced blueprint will chronicle the haphazard and largely invisible play development journeys taken by new projects from idea to full production. It is being piloted by American Voices institute with support from the Mellon Foundation and the NEA. Wikipedia-style portal showcases the developmental process of readings, workshops and performances of new works held anywhere in the country. Data can be viewed by project, playwright or organization, and can be entered by artists and organizations alike, with fact-checking opportunities build in. Map will benefit all participants of new development including artists, funders, literary managers and artistic directors, according to David Dower, the head of the institute and the associate a.d. of Arena. He added the portal's next generation will be more media rich so individuals can upload video, photos, podcasts, blogs and other documentation of each developmental step.