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The current state of state arts funding...


         Kansas Governor abolishes State Arts Commission

Kansas City Star, February 7, 2011

Gov. Sam Brownback signed an executive order Monday abolishing the Kansas Arts Commission and replacing it with a private, nonprofit organization. The move will save the cash-strapped state nearly $600,000 a year," out of a $500 million budget deficit.

         Texas Governor calls for defunding Arts and Historical Commissions

Texas Tribune, February 8, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry argued in his State of the State speech Tuesday that lawmakers should suspend funding for two state agencies - the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Texas Historical Commission - because they don't provide 'mission-critical' services.

         South Carolina Governor proposes eliminating Arts Commission

The Greenville News, February 2, 2011

The state's annual appropriation for the Arts Commission is less than 0.04% of the state's total $5.1 billion budget. Why would Gov. Haley single out such a small agency? If the Commission is eradicated the budget savings will be minimal. And we would immediately lose $900,000 in matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

         New York State Arts Council to receive a 10% cut?, February 7, 2011

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his proposed 2011-12 budget, which, if approved, would cut overall state spending for the first time in 15 years. He proposed a flat 10% cut to all arts funding.  


Why should state governments support the arts?

Website of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

Hard economic times lead to tough questions about government funding:

  • Why should government support the arts?
  • Are the arts a worthwhile investment during hard economic times?
  • Why can't the private sector pick up the costs?
  • Why are state arts agencies important?

Designed for public arts leaders and advocates, Why Should Government Support the Arts? provides answers to these questions and describes why the arts are an essential public investment. This document invites conversation and reflection about the value of the arts to American communities. It also provides resource material and research citations that any state can use to support its case for the arts.  NASAA encourages broad use of this material. It is designed to be a menu from which you can excerpt, mix and match as needed. Keep it close at hand when you are drafting testimony, crafting presentations or preparing budget requests. A low-format Microsoft Word version is available to make it easy to borrow from the text. Be sure to add your own examples that bring to life the many ways in which the arts benefit citizens and communities in your state.


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Commentary: Can the nonprofit theater industry solve its supply/demand problem?

Devon Smith's  blog 24 Usable Hours, February 1, 2011

OK, I can't resist.  A few thoughts on the #supplydemand discussion inspired by NEA Chair Rocco Landesman: In a market economy, [a] change in price drives out some of the suppliers who can't produce at [a lower] price, which shifts the supply curve backwards, which pushes the price back up, and stabilizes the market. [However] ticket prices haven't been falling. According to the TCG Fiscal Survey from 1997-2009, average ticket prices have actually far outpaced inflation.  In other words, the players in our market aren't behaving rationally. They're charging more and more even as fewer and fewer people are attending their shows. It seems to me that we have a price/cost problem. Over time, the price of some types of products tend to fall, mostly due to advances in producing them more efficiently. The price of other products tend to rise over time, mostly due to their perceived worth or [increased] cost of production.  TCG trend theatres in the Fiscal Survey [have] nearly doubled how much [they] spend per evening's performance in the past 12 years.  So are costs rising because wages are increasing? Well, the wages for some at least: note how that red line outpaces the blue line in 2004:


It gets worse. The average attendance per performance has also significantly decreased:


Bottom line: we're spending more money each night for fewer people to attend the theatre.So of course our theatres have increased their prices -- they can't afford not to.  Unless some of these variables start to change.  Let's imagine an incredibly simplified version of some mythical future arts economy. What if:

  • Every theatre company performed one show every night of the year
  • Every theatre space had 200 seats and was filled to capacity every night
  • There existed 300 million people of theatre going age
  • Every person went to the theatre on average 3 times per year (about half as often as they go to movies)

There would need to be 1 theatre for approximately every 25,000 people. So New York City would have about 350 theatres. Chicago would have about 120 theatres. Austin would have 30 theatres. And yes, even Peoria would have 5 theatres. That doesn't sound so bad does it?  Of course, this simplification doesn't say anything about price or cost -- just quantity. It could be the case that producing in a 200 seat theatre would be less cost effective than producing in a 400 seat theatre.  Is it realistic to believe theatre-going could be half as popular as film-going?  Is it realistic to believe we can significantly decrease average theatre size?  Is it realistic to believe we could ever equally disperse theatre activity?  And oh by the way, that would also likely increase the average cost of production.  Newspapers are dying while journalism and consumption of news thrives because it turns out there are legitimately good alternatives to the news in physical form. Are there good alternatives to the theatre?  I don't know.  But decreasing supply doesn't necessarily mean decreasing the number of theatre organizations.  And "solving" the supply/demand equilibrium could depend as much on price (what I'm willing to pay) or cost (what you are able to produce at) as it does on quantity.

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