In the midst of new plans and strategies for arts funding in the state, I'd like to suggest still another -- and it's offered gratis -- without a consulting fee attached. (No, you're welcome).
I'm calling it "5-50-500."
It would give the five
I know, I know, the budget is tight and the governor wants a strategy enabling high-profile arts and heritage projects to invigorate cities and attract young innovators.
But this wouldn't take effect until next year's budget when presumably the economy is healthier. And the DECD funding could still be arts innovation-directed.
The state arts funding policy right now is crazy with some groups getting handsome line items which other not-for-profit groups fighting for the crumbs in what used to be the arts commission budget (now DECD).
The governor, legislators and Department of Economic and Community Development honchos are all trying to restructure the nonsensical funding in way that is most effective and sensible for a 21st Century dynamic -- all the while not hurting our arts (and heritage) groups that depend on the existing funding for a wee bit of operational help.
Most troublesome are the line items, given to arts, heritage and cultural groups that are fairly assured that they will receive significant funds from earmarks every year. The problem is that many line items are there for no other reason than some legislator got them that cozy and secure spot. (Others are there from when the hotel tax system in which they benefited was morphed into the general fund and they needed some assurance that money would continue to come to them.)
Really hurt in all of this are the 5 prestigious institutions that have received Tony Awards for their work over the past half century:
None of these great treasures get a line item and all deserve that kind of stabilizing security.
It's simply scandalous to see every year these prestigious institutions get a fraction of funds that go to others. Is it really fair that Ivoryton Playhouse gets more money in support than Hartford Stage? (Nothing against Ivoryton which does fine work for its local community, but really, just because you have a powerful state legislator who knows how to work the levers....) Or the fact that New Haven's International Festival of Arts & Ideas got a mil, while Long Wharf gets 1/20th of that funding. (Again, nothing against the festival that also presents some grand work, too, over a two-week period.)
And ALL the presenting houses in the state such as the Shubert, Palace, Garde and Stanford Center of the Arts (but excluding the Bushnell for some strange reason) get six-figure line items. They all do terrific work in their local communities but they generally ship in from out-of-state their arts product.
But the five Tony Award-winning regional theaters employ staffs to PRODUCE art, and often they export what they create in Connec ticut to Broadway and around the world, bringing honor and attention to the state. (And when the state tourism brags about the arts in the state, guess which arts attractions gets mentioned most?)
Well, the five regional theaters are all on the verge of celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2013 and 2014, a stunning accomplishment that deserves more than a round of applause.
My plan would require the five theaters to organize to rally behind the 5-50-500 funding proposal. If they can't show that they can partner with each other perhaps they don't deserve this funding after all. (But perhaps such partnering can result in other projects as well.)
So to the governor, legislators and DECD, I'd say, allow these five theater institutions to celebrate their 50th with a $500,000 line item, where each would get $100,000 that would help to stabilize these institutions.
It wouldn't make up for decades of unfair funding but it would insure somewhat that these treasures, these ANCHORS of the state's tourism efforts -- could be around for its century celebration.