Government and The Arts

April 9th, 2009 1 comment

By Ken Davies

Ken Davies, composer

Ken Davies, composer

In the recent months since the Wall Street melt-down and subsequent bank bailouts, we saw a most surprising and refreshing public response involving the $50 million arts package part of the federal economic stimulus proposal. When the arts money appeared to have been eliminated from the stimulus, 85,000 people responded to the Americans For The Arts call to write to senators and congresspersons. Showing the significance of one aspect of American government, that it actually will respond to noise in great numbers, the arts package was put back into the stimulus.

Yet, a large part of this drama revolved around the wide-spread scapegoating of the arts and the people who make them. There were anti-arts hate statements like one from Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA), “We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA and pretending that’s going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a road project is disingenuous.” Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) asked “What does $50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts have to do with creating jobs?” In further prejudice against artists by “respected” leaders, we’ve seen lawyer and House Republican Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) steal an Aerosmith song (about a cowboy and a prostitute) to underscore a political video ad to suggest that Republicans were “Back In The Saddle.” Later, on the March night of President Obama’s first major televised press conference, Cantor was in the audience of a Britney Spears show. (I guess no cultural comment is needed on that one.) In his bid for President, John McCain (R-AZ) stole several songs for use in his campaign including Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty.” This resulted in a lawsuit against McCain that the court has refused to dismiss at McCain’s request and is still pending. See the lawyers’ blog at to follow this one.

It is common to hear, from some types, the statement that if one’s art is good enough, it will sell on its own and does not need to be subsidized. Arts educators have a hard enough time working to raise the redneck level above the lowest common denominator without having to argue this stupidity. And it certainly sends a message when our own government officials demean the work of those who did not receive subsidy by just stealing it without a thought or fear of repercussion. A publicized Browne victory against McCain would convey an important message. Removing McCain from the Senate for this act would convey an even more important message. Yet subsidies play a large role in government, not just the laughably tiny amount given to the arts.

All governments subsidize those activities which they want to increase and they reduce or eliminate funding from those activities which they want to diminish. It all comes down to who gets favored and who doesn’t. What government subsidizes (with your tax money) are called “economic social goods and services” which are deemed good for all society. These include schools, fire departments, police departments, militaries, government officials, and – in some European countries – the arts and music. Here are some comparative arts subsidies between various nations’ 2008 budgets: USA (National Endowment for the Arts) $144 million, Israel $114 million, Canada $164 million, Germany $1.4 Billion, France $3.8 Billion. Even “little” Norway budgeted $216 million back in 1989.

As for American subsidies, consider the following:
• 100 senators and 435 congressmen salaries of $175,000 each = $93 million
(and each has an additional staff budget of 1-2 million)
• U.S. national debt of $9.5 trillion = $1.5 billion interest every day mostly to China.
• Bailing out banks and wall street = $700 billion and more
• Pentagon war budget = $711 billion (2009)
• Iraq war = $120 billion year ($10 billion per month)
• USA foreign aid to Israel military = $3 billion
• Babylon, Iraq tourist destination = $700,000 from US Dept of State
• USA Farm subsidy = $286 billion (2008)
• About 2 million farmers and farm entities receive about $16 billion per year in programs designed to help stabilize incomes when prices fall or to help protect sensitive land.
• NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration=$16.2 billion a year
• Education funding – just NCLB (no child left behind) = $14 billion
• Corn ethanol subsidies = $7 billion
• Army Corps of Engineers – $5 billion annually for dams and water projects 
• Abstinence-only sex education = $176 million (2008)
• Anti-drug advertising campaign fund = $130 million (2008)

These subsidies “create jobs” just like the NEA through their state agencies like Mississippi Arts Commission and Colorado Council for the Arts does. If the arts opportunities are to grow, it’s important to find out who the anti-arts legislators in your state and nation are and campaign against them. More noise has to be made to help support the political actions of groups like Americans for the Arts and the American Federation of Musicians. The noise making cannot be left to “political leaders” like Rush Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber.

When you strip away all the talk of left-wing vs right-wing, conservative vs liberal, republican vs democrat, free market capitalist vs socialist, etc., it comes down to this; there are two kinds of politicians: 1) those who support the arts and 2) the other kind.

Categories: Composer's Notes - Ken Davies Tags:

“Canned Cleopatra” opens to over 300 protesters

April 1st, 2009 No comments

ballet juke boxHundreds of musicians and their union brothers and sisters formed picket lines and distributed leaflets in front of Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, in protest of Texas Ballet Theater’s canned music policy. Demonstrators inflated a giant rat balloon to draw attention to musicians’ concerns. Demonstrations were held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 27, 28 and 29, 2009 prior to the start of the company’s Cleopatra performances.

The ballet company outsourced its orchestra pit during last weekend’s performances of “Canned Cleopatra,” replacing musicians with a recording it made in China. Company artistic staff traveled to Shanghai in June 2008 and paid the Chinese government $30,000.00 for a recording of the Rimsky Korsakov score of Cleopatra. The ballet company cheated its patrons with canned music this season and says it intends to replace musicians indefinitely, including shows planned next season at the new $400 million Dallas Center For the Performing Arts.

“Over three hundred musicians and members of other area unions stood outside Bass Hall last weekend,” said Ray Hair, president of the musicians’ union, and a trustee of the Tarrant County Central Labor Council. “We sent a strong message to the ballet company and the arts community. When you hurt professional musicians, there are consequences.”

A Dallas Morning News/Fort Worth Star-telegram review of Friday’s performance criticized the musical accompaniment as clumsy and hamstrung. “…the progression seemed hurried. Raw, rough-hewn, taped music barged forward, when a more caressing tempo was needed to mirror the emotions…”

canned-weddingLabor Council President T.C. Gillespie predicted dark days ahead for the ballet company. “The protest was a huge success. We had tremendous support from patrons who were saying they wouldn’t return to hear canned music. It’s obvious the company is on its knees from poor attendance and the high number of ticket giveaways. If they crawl over to the Winspear, we’ll take our show on the road and protest fake ballet there, too,” he said.”

Click here for additional information from the Dallas-Fort Worth Professional Musicians Association.

“engaging” at Engagements

March 28th, 2009 No comments

tomjensenIt occurred to me, after finishing my Tiny Tots– “Inside the Orchestra” run with the Junior Symphony Guild (we saw 8,000 kids), that we, as musicians, have a difficult time interacting with the audience after concerts. Over the years I have learned to elicit comments from shy and timid preschoolers with questions like: “What did you like the best (besides me)?”

And it is equally important talking to grownups after a performance as well. I remember being at a reception recently, observing musicians awkwardly looking for punch and cookies and making conversation with patrons. Now patrons want to talk to artists– and sometimes the intimidation factor can be offputting for them. They want to be a part of the discussion, but don’t want to appear to be ignorant of the art form. I remember an adult asking a bass player about his “cello.” He replied: “No, it’s a bass!” One might instead say: “Yes, it looks like a cello, but it is bigger, it is a bass.”

But more importantly, it is advantageous to make audience members feel good about themselves. We do have an adrenaline rush after a performance and may want to discuss our work, but it is important to realize and recognize the validation of the people who come to see and hear us work. So, in the spirit of things to think about the next time you are choking down a brownie after a show– try these out for size:

“So, you are new to the Philharmonic Board of Directors– how did you decide to become a part of our organization?” Or….

“Bruckner is pretty heavy stuff, this was my first time playing this piece– did you know this symphony before you came? What did you think of it?” Or…

“Thanks for the kind words about my contra bassoon solo “(substitute your instrument here). ” Usually nobody remarks about it– did you study a woodwind instrument, or are you a vacuum cleaner salesman?” Or…

“What did you think of the concerto? I loved the way she plays the end– it was really fast, a virtuoso moment.”

Adults like to be asked questions– not too hard, but talking points that draw them out– it may be a future donor with whom you are conversing… and that’s always important.

So next time you are exhausted after playing two hours of Strauss waltz offbeats on your viola, take a moment to think of a fun question to ask a person who paid to hear you perform– try not to focus on the carpal tunnel stuff going on in your neck and shoulder.

Remember, it’s “showbiz.”

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Ballet is not dead … it just smells funny

March 26th, 2009 No comments

ballet juke box

an interview with Tom Jensen

It defies all logic and reason how a performing arts organization could even think of presenting classical ballet on the stage of a $400 million facility in a major population center… without orchestra. Sure enough, this very silly show opens this Friday evening, March 27, amid protesting musicians and 50 area labor unions who are uniting to fight this fraud and injustice. The press release from Dallas AFM Local 72-147: Musicians to Protest “Canned Cleopatra” Shows should be a wake up call for all of us.

Are audiences letting go of standards established by Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, not to mention brilliant collaborations between George Balanchine, Igor Stravinsky and Paul Hindemith? Is it really true that a $100 ticket only buys half a show? Is public investment for a performing arts center more important than the 3 or 4% of budget that it takes to stage an orchestra?

Tom Jensen, conductor and contributing author for the “Conductor’s Corner” of the Hospitality Suite offers unique insight into these questions. Tom was music director and conductor of Colorado Ballet for seven years. He was also a featured conductor with both the Joffrey and Nashville ballet companies. Esprit De Cours among dancers and musicians was as good as I’ve ever seen. Tom would invariably bring a case of champagne to share with all of the performers on closing night. This was the polar opposite of what is now happening to Texas Ballet Theater as there was logic and longevity to what we were doing. There was also innovative marketing.

Vriesenga: Tom, how did you get into this strange business?

Jensen: As a musician, I always found ways to promote my art. And it got me into broadcasting.

While in San Antonio conducting the youth orchestra, I was a frequent guest on WOAI, a talk station. I was kind of a Sam Levenson type (do you remember Art Linkletter?) talking about kids and education and fun stuff about young people — I started my future stand up routine on that station. It really made the youth orchestra better known. Later I would start doing stand up comedy.

My early days as music director with the Colorado Ballet were fun and a bit “heady” as I was working with great musicians, talented dancers and was about to fall in love with my ballerina wife — it was 1983.

At the same time I was developing a radio broadcasting career.

But it was the creativity and latitude that the Ballet Company gave me that was really fun.

Vriesenga: When did you first begin to blend marketing with your role as music director?

Jensen: Around 1985, I got the idea to auction off the overture to the Nutcracker at a ballet fundraiser. Eyebrows were raised “how could you demean this family treat with a bit of show biz at the beginning?” the founders of the company asked me.

The final bid was for $3,500 — we were off to the races!

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

The next year it was decided early on that every overture would be sold. Opening night went for $10,000 and the company’s name was added to the marquee and a speech was given before the start of the ballet, with the CEO or other VIP conducting the overture… (the overture stands alone from the first act — to me, this was a natural fundraiser).

For the remainder of the run, the overture went for $5,000, or an equivalent of in-kind work for the Company. Weatherman Ed Greene conducted — and I got to do the weather in my white tie and tails on the evening news; Denver Bronco’s receiver Vance Johnson conducted — spiking the baton when he finished; and assorted CEOs got conducting lessons as well — I was crankin’ ’em out throughout the run. A lot of people had fun and a good time, we raised money while awareness of the Colorado Ballet increased with free publicity.

Vriesenga: In the mid-80s you picked up another radio gig, which brought a “unique” cross-marketing relationship to Colorado Ballet. How did that go over?

At the time I had a talk show on KOA Radio, and then got a wild idea for promoting the ballet’s triple bill on Valentine’s Day. My program was broadcast from an outdoor hot tub in front of a lingerie store — it was February and freezing, but the bit was cute: if you got in the hot tub with me, you would get a gift certificate for lingerie from the store, and we would call your girlfriend and ask her if she wanted comp tickets to go to the ballet. Better still, if there was a person you had never dated, but you wanted to ask her (him) out, the idea was that no one would turn down a romantic evening at the ballet — and that was the hook for radio listeners to tune in: would a person being called from a radio show “stiff” a person asking for a date? It was a blast and we generated a lot of free press for the production.

Vriesenga: You were doing commercials and voice-over work at the time. Any television?

Jensen: I got a stint doing movie reviews on KCNC Television. Well, I wanted to do more than movies, so I had a chance to do a taped stand up with dancers from Copellia, interviewing the doll — she didn’t talk too much. It was a fun departure from just doing movies. And it was different exposure for the Company — ballet talk during a regular movie segment, we were reaching a TV audience that may have not known about Colorado Ballet.

Vriesenga: I applaud your work to bring other performing organizations into your world of creative and cost-effective marketing. I’ll never forget my early morning experience in a Colorado Springs grocery store. Please share some of these stories.

Jensen: Promoting the arts in a unique way became a signature of mine. I had John Moriarty, music director of the Central City Opera, as a guest on my show. Instead of an interview on the story line of their current production (an idea that bored me…) I offered free tickets to anyone that could call in and sing a famous aria that would impress my guest. A guy called in and sang something from Puccini, and John was blown away — turned out the guy was calling from his cell phone in his farming “tractor cab” while plowing the back forty outside of Limon.

John was laughing hysterically and collapsed on the floor. The guy won the tickets and it was a great way of getting press for the Opera.

Mel Torme was a guest on my show – the “velvet fog,” at least I think that was his nickname. We were publicizing his concert and I decided to give away tickets to the best Mel Torme impersonation. A caller sang one of Mel’s tunes, and was so bad that it was cute — he got the tickets.

Your “grocery store” reference takes us back to the time when I conducted a 24-hour marathon concert/fundraiser for the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. The orchestra was trying to gain new footing after the demise of the Colorado Springs Symphony. It was a chamber orchestra performing for an entire day and through the night in the produce department of a King Soopers store (it takes guts to play next to a pile of tomatoes) — “Can I have a price check on a cellist?”

The idea was to bring the orchestra to the people and bond with the community – hence the grocery connection. That event was covered by CNN, NBC, Fox News and the AP Wire. We started a fundraising event that eventually raised a million dollars. And, I lost 10 pounds. By the way, thank you Pete, for volunteering on bass trombone for the 3:00 – 7:00 AM shift. Hopefully you weren’t violating any union bylaws?

It all comes down to this: The arts have to do engaging things to promote, and we have to do it in a way that will catch the interest and appeal to the general public who may not think of a production, whatever it is, as an activity in which to participate.

National Recording Disagreements

March 22nd, 2009 9 comments

After demonstrating its muscle and ability to shut down the recording industry, the AFM emerged the victor by November of 1944 with first-time agreements with Decca, Capitol, RCA and Columbia Records. The structure and framework for these National Recording Agreements still exist today, but that moment in 1944 may have been the last point in time for meaningful “agreement.”

At that time the AFM rightfully claimed to have an agreement with “the recording industry” because those four labels were in fact the only notable companies and employers in the business. Six decades later we now have a variety of national recording agreements; the most prominent being the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) that is signed by six recording labels: Warner Brothers, Atlantic Recording, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and EMI Music. But the difference from 1944 to now is the entry of thousands of new recording labels who are not signatory. The premise of the SRLA as a “National Agreement” no longer holds water, but it is in fact a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The SRLA is periodically ratified by a relatively-small group (1,000?) of musicians. Appropriately, AFM members honor and respect this bargaining relationship that exists between these six signatory labels and the members of the bargaining unit. Furthermore, musicians who accept substandard wages or benefits from these employers should be fined and/or expelled from the AFM. This is a fundamental principle of labor solidarity.

Unfortunately, resolving the existing conflict and disagreement over recording policy is not so simple. Musicians who make up the SRLA bargaining unit somehow draw the conclusion that the SRLA, though signed by only six companies, is also a universal minimum or “scale” that applies to the entire industry, irregardless of the employer. Their reasoning is that the recording industry differs from live performance because recorded product is an international commodity that readily moves to cheaper markets. Sadly, we live in a time where all industries, from heavy industry to candle-making, are seeking cheaper labor.

The  only solution is to build solidarity and support throughout the AFM while growing our membership, but we are doing exactly the opposite by promoting dubious, protectionist policies. Complex collective bargaining agreements are being thrust upon AFM members who have no say in the matter whatsoever. AFM members have been threatened with expulsion and fines (up to $50,000) for violation of bargaining structures that simply do not exist elsewhere in organized labor. It should come as no surprise that untold numbers of young musicians opt against joining the AFM for needless fear of reprimand.

Giant signatory recording companies have benefited most from this arrangement because the AFM is obligated to either turn away or beat down their competition. I wrote about this very subject in 2004 in a piece titled A Great Deal for Media Giants.  These companies have manipulated the AFM into defending and strengthening their monopolies, which would otherwise violate anti-trust laws if attempted on their own.

Once again, I refer to a textbook that was given to me as an attendee of a special AFM training course offered by the George Meany Center for Labor Studies (class of 1998). There is a wealth of enlightening material in this book that I shall refer to in the months to come, but for now I call your attention to the following Exhibit:


Union(s) —————————————Employer(s), Worksite(s)

  1. One local union — Single employer, One worksite
  2. One local union — Multiple employers, multiple worksites
  3. Multiple local unions of same national union — Single employer, multiple worksites
  4. Multiple local unions of same national union — Multiple employers, multiple worksites, same industry
  5. Single local unions of multiple national unions — Single employer, one or more worksites

The structure of AFM National Agreements (multiple locals – all employers, all worksites) doesn’t exist elsewhere in Labor because it violates even the most fundamental tenets of union democracy.  The only way to create an agreement that covers all employers is to establish representation for all AFM members who work in that industry. The AFM attempts to correct this imbalance through Promulgated Agreements that are established by the sole authority of the AFM’s International Executive Board (IEB), but this system has its obvious pitfalls. The IEB is an elected body that is credited for implementing popular agreements, but must also take hits when they rankle the ire of any one segment of the membership.

The controversy du jour is a promulgagted videogame agreement. This has triggered an unjust attack at AMF president Tom Lee , ripe with sensationalist drama that has been pitched to the press on a weekly basis. If that’s not enough, this dispute has led to two class action lawsuits filed against the AFM.

Robert Levine, president of the Milwaukee Musicians’ Association and host author of the AFM Observer has written extensively on this matter. Among ongoing and colorful debate is a discussion thread titled Is suing the AFM wrong? Robert further expresses his views in a recent article titled New Democracy Battles in Musicians Union that was published in the Jan/Feb ’09 issue of the Union Democracy Review.

These “recording wars” are indeed a battle, but with all due respect to Robert Levine, they have little to do with union democracy. Among the unfortunate turns and twists of this story is the fact that recognized bargaining structures wouldn’t allow for any of this in first place.

Musicians to Protest “Canned Cleopatra” Shows

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Ballet Company Replacing Musicians with Recordings it Made in China
Company outsourced culture, is an artistic fraud and consumer rip-off, Musicians say

Brothers and Sisters:

In June, 2008, the artistic staff of a Fort Worth ballet company traveled to Shanghai, paid $30,000.00 to the government of China and killed the jobs of our members. Join with us March 27, 28 and 29 as we converge on Bass Hall in Downtown Fort Worth to protest one of the most deplorable acts ever staged in the history of classical ballet theater.

Download News Memo

Message from AFM President Tom Lee

Dear Local Officer,

I am writing to advise you of Local 72-147’s forthcoming demonstration on March 27, 28, and 29 in Fort Worth against the Texas Ballet Theater and invite your Local’s members to join the demonstrations.

In September of 2008, the Theater dumped the Fort Worth Symphony and Dallas Opera orchestras and has used canned music instead. Then in February 2009 the Theater announced that it would open its 2009/2010 season in the new $400 million Dallas Performing Arts Center to an empty pit.

On March 27, 28 and 29, the Theater will present Cleopatra, with the Rimsky-Korsakov score piped in with a recording made in China. This action simply must not be allowed to go unchecked. It is an insult to musicians and audiences in the Dallas Fort Worth community and if we do not show our opposition to it this could motivate other companies across North America to do the same.

I have provided three links below courtesy of Local 72-147. These links provide more information on this matter.

Message to Texas Ballet Theater Employees, Patrons and the Public

Memo to Membership

Local 72-147 Information Page

I look forward to your support on this matter.

Thomas F. Lee

Giant Rats in the Street – thank IBEW 269

March 18th, 2009 No comments

ratResponding to daily revelations of corruption and scandal with the AIG bailout, an estimated 10,000 Americans are hitting the streets on March 19, in more than 100 public demonstrations across the country. These public displays of mass outrage will surely force accountability and oversight that decades of litigation and arbitration could never produce.

A common fixture at labor protests, including AFM Local 802 (God bless ‘em!) is a giant inflatable rat. These rodents (Rattus norvegicus gigantus) have become a symbol of corporate greed and are feared by even the most powerful executives, which explains why they’re facing extermination.

In 2005, a Lawrence Township N.J. ordinance was applied to prohibit Electrical Workers’ Local 269 from displaying a 10-foot tall rat balloon as part of their labor protest on a public sidewalk. Wayne DeAngelo, business manager for Local 269 was convicted of violating the ordinance. Mr. DeAngelo appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court (State v. DeAngelo, N.J., No. A-73-07, 2/5/09)

Last month the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Lawrence Township ordinance “does not fairly advance any compelling governmental interests” and is not “narrowly tailored” to target the source of harm it seeks to prevent.”

Samuel Gompers on Compulsory ArbitrationEmphasizing constitutional protections of free speech, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the City’s claim that the purpose of the ordinance is to maintain an aesthetic environment, to improve vehicular safety and to minimize adverse effects of signs on property. Justice Wallace offered that “There is no evidence to suggest that a rat balloon is significantly more harmful to aesthetics or safety than a similar item being displayed as an advertisement or commercial logo used in a seven-day grand opening promotion.”

Lord knows, musicians have done their share to further the intersts of healthy public protest. But on this day we recognize brother Wayne DeAngelo for winning one for all of us, while standing up against some detestable creatures.

Liability Insurance – just say no

March 14th, 2009 No comments

A DMA (Denver Musicians Association) member called me yesterday asking if it was necessary to buy liability coverage for his band. He was offered a gig to provide lunchtime entertainment in a public square for a downtown business. This is the first time he’s been asked to show liability coverage, so he was curious how to respond.

I told him about the AFM’s liability insurance program that’s available for members, which “provides up to $1 million for each occurrence and up to $2 million of aggregate coverage for lawsuits arising out of bodily injury and/or damage to property for others, occurring on or off premises during your performance.” For a few hundred bucks per year he agreed that a liability policy would make his band more competitive, but the fact remains that liability insurance is the responsibility of the venue owner. Additional coverage only subsidizes and insulates insurance companies with double or triple coverage.

This question has surfaced more frequently in recent years for summer music festivals, city parks and public buildings. A local jazz club put this in their contracts some years back. Thankfully, a handful of local bandleaders responded by simply striking out and initialing that section of the contract. The liability requirement soon went away once the owner realized that other bandleaders would all take the same stance.

Nonetheless, more bandleaders are biting the bullet for liability coverage, fearing they’ll either lose the gig or face a lawsuit. And sadly, this is no different than pressures that we face every day from the health insurance lobby, the homeowners insurance lobby, etc., etc. Remember the residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast who were forced by law to buy hurricane coverage? The insurance companies bailed on their obligations after Katrina, claiming the homeowners were victims of “wind-driven water.”

The insurance lobby has screwed us once again.

the Art of federal stimulus

March 10th, 2009 No comments

This mornings email blast from the Colorado Council on the Arts (CCA) contained disturbing news about anticipated stimulus grants. We should be very concerned that 1) only a handful of employers are even eligible to apply for these funds, and 2) if utilized, may only enhance a travel getaway for musicians who summer in Colorado.

The opening paragraph was very promising: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Public Law 111-5 (“Recovery Act”) recognizes that the nonprofit arts industry is an important sector of the economy. The National Endowment for the Arts is uniquely positioned to fund arts projects and activities that preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn. As part of this important investment, the Arts Endowment has designed a plan to expedite distribution of critical funds for the national, regional, state, and local levels for projects that focus on the preservation of jobs in the arts.

I’m a supporter of the stimulus bill and also the NEA. But like most Americans, I want to know how federal stimulus funds will be disbursed in my industry … how will these funds affect my community?

The CCA email continued: “the National Endowment for the Arts has announced a deadline of April 2 for direct one-time grants to eligible nonprofit organizations as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Applicants for these grants must be previous NEA award recipients from the past four years. A list of Colorado applicants eligible to apply for direct NEA funding is included below:”

  • Arvada Council for the Arts and Humanities, Inc., Arvada CO
  • Aspen Ballet Company & School, Aspen CO
  • Independent Films, Inc., Aspen CO
  • Music Associates of Aspen, Inc., Aspen CO
  • Boulder County Arts Alliance, Boulder CO
  • Colorado Music Festival, Boulder CO
  • Frequent Flyers Productions, Inc., Boulder CO
  • International Tap Association, Boulder CO
  • Naropa University, Boulder CO
  • Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, Boulder CO
  • National Repertory Orchestra, Inc., Breckenridge CO
  • Colorado College, Colorado Springs CO
  • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs CO
  • Sprinkle Art Inc., Colorado Springs CO
  • City of Delta, Colorado, Delta CO
  • Central City Opera House Association, Denver CO
  • Clyfford Still Museum, Denver CO
  • Colorado Ballet Company, Denver CO
  • Colorado Council on the Arts, Denver CO
  • Colorado Symphony Association, Denver CO
  • Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver CO
  • Denver Film Society, Denver CO
  • Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, Denver CO
  • International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management, Inc., Denver CO
  • New Dance Theatre, Inc., Denver CO
  • PlatteForum, Denver CO
  • Su Teatro, Denver CO
  • University of Denver, Denver CO
  • Western States Arts Federation, Denver CO
  • Fort Lewis College, Durango CO
  • National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, Erie CO
  • Arts Alive Fort Collins, Fort Collins CO
  • City of Fort Collins, Colorado, Fort Collins CO
  • Fort Collins Museum Foundation, Fort Collins CO
  • Art Mobile of Montana, Grand Junction CO
  • University of Northern Colorado, Greeley CO
  • City of Lakewood, Colorado, Lakewood CO
  • City of Littleton, Colorado, Littleton CO
  • Littleton Center for Cultural Arts Foundation, Littleton CO
  • Anderson Ranch Arts Foundation, Snowmass Village CO
  • Emerald City Opera, Steamboat Spring CO
  • Bravo! Colorado at Vail-Beaver Creek, Vail CO
  • Among the three employers of musicians, Colorado Music Festival and Bravo! Colorado at Vail operate as summer festivals that import musicians at significant public expense. Consider qualifying criteria of each:

    The Colorado Music Festival (Boulder, CO) offers a base bay of approximately $270/week (4 rehearsals and 2 concerts), which is well below prevailing wage in this industry. Directly relevant to this discussion is the fact that cost of living in Boulder is higher than in three of the five burroughs of New York City.

    The statute specifically states: “Compensate all professional performers and related or supporting professional personnel on Arts Endowment-supported projects at no less than the prevailing minimum compensation.”

    In my view the Colorado Music Festival was ineligible to apply for NEA funding initially, and therefore has no place on a short list of employers eligible for stimulus funds.

    I strongly advise that CMF does not apply.

    Bravo! Colorado at Vail-Beaver Creek is a product of philanthropic largesse. The Summer ’09 festival will feature the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic as orchestras in-residence. They’re invited back because they bring extraordinary levels of funding to the table. Simply put, this is pay to play.

    Importing three major orchestras for the exclusive benefit to one of the wealthiest communities in the world is certainly defendable as a commercial venture, but not when drawing on scarce pubic funding such as the NEA or the CCA. The prerequisite as stated by the NEA is “to fund arts projects and activities that preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn.”

    Let’s accept for a moment that Bravo! experienced a decline in contributions. The Vail community can still satisy their ‘discriminating’ musical taste by importing just two ensembles. And, they can just as easily take the family for a short drive to experience and support a wealth of entertainment and artistic offerings that exist in their own regional community. Their recreation-based economy would suffer greatly if not for large numbers of Colorado residents who support them.

    Similarly, I strongly advise that the Bravo Festival does not apply.

    President Obama has assured transparency with this program so the public can follow and track how these dollars are spent and review jobs created. I anxiously await the report.

    Pete Vriesenga

    If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it …

    March 8th, 2009 No comments

    Thank you Nikki, for taking the time to express your concerns. Yes, there have been a couple of examples where board members have missed two or three meetings in a row. Hectic personal schedules were to blame, and to their credit, these board members didn’t expect to be paid for those absences. Nonetheless, current bylaws require the board to hold two meetings per month. Resulting efficiency of the board is only compromised when members are missing.

    It’s also true that board members are paid modestly, compensating for duties and responsibilities that go well beyond attendance at meetings. This area of additional “duties and responsibilities” is one where I hope to encourage greater productivity and efficiency.

    For example, our current board is very effective with email communication. Email makes it possible to frequently handle business between meetings, weekends, etc. Occasionally I hear objections to email discussions (versus face-to-face meetings), and I understand that. But I also believe that email has significant advantages in context of board discussions. Email has a tendency to focus the discussion, provides a written transcript, and is far more accessible to board members who don’t reside in town.

    We must also encourage our elected officers to write and present their viewpoints in a public forum. This increased public visibility will strengthen our collective viewpoints and simultaneously create a forum for debate. Disagreements often arise within a board, as they should. Differing opinions lead to necessary and healthy discourse, but it serves no purpose if these discussions are confined to the boardroom … does it make a sound?

    Pete Vriesenga

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