…And We Didn’t Even Get A Kiss

The always sharp Joe Patti published an excellent article on 6/24/2013 that examines just little some governments care about culture. In particular, he examines the state of New Jersey’s hate-hate relationship with the arts by way of their decision to pilfer a dedicated arts tax.

Instead of providing more funding as more revenue comes in to the dedicated tax, the state is raking the excess revenue into the general coffers.

“…the tax generated more than $1.1 billion for state and local governments since it was introduced 10 years ago, but only $184 million has gone to the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the largest of the four agencies that should have received a far bigger chunk of the money.
It’s a cautionary tale for supporters of a separate bill that would take a slice of the sales tax to fund the state’s open space and historic preservation programs, which have run out of money. It might look great on paper, but without the political will behind it, the promises are hollow.”

Patti then wonders whether the ongoing Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) labor dispute and the involvement of the Minnesota legislature may play out.

I don’t have any firm answers but I do know that the ordeal can go in a number of directions. On one hand, it could serve as impetus for the state to become far more involved with regulatory oversight into how nonprofit arts organizations are being governed. The increased transparency would help keep everything above board and focused on the institution’s mission rather than personal and/or ideological diversions.

On the other hand, the involvement will poison the well for state arts funding as future politicians use the debacle to justify dogma driven disposition against arts funding.

Regardless, nonsense like what’s transpiring in New Jersey goes a long way toward reinforcing the notion that the arts can easily be kicked around without repercussion. It will be interesting to see if New Jersey arts orgs mount any resistance.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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