During this meeting we heard a little bit about the history of the Fine Arts Fund and the recent marketing research that led to their re-branding. (I speak about this here and here and here). While I maintain my criticism of their outsourcing of marketing research and the embarrassingly sloppy re-branding of the Fine Arts Fund, my immediate concern is their expanded mission.
Expanding their mission to include arts and culture will make money available to all non-profit cultural institutions. Ms. McCullough-Hudson stressed the support of the "Big Eight" (Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati Ballet, Contemporary Art Center, Playhouse in the Park, and the May Festival) will not weaken. ArtsWave will also continue to support the growing number of smaller arts organizations throughout Greater Cincinnati. Though she did say the mission towards impact would now allow the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and Cincinnati Museum Center to seek funding support from ArtsWave.
I will let (and hope) others ask how access to this new funding source will affect the passage of future taxes to support these two organizations. As I mentioned recently, my concern is for the artists. Perhaps more accurately, for art.
I attended the meeting to ask the one question, "Does this new expanded mission include artists grants?" The answer, "no."
Ms. McCullough tried unconvincingly to suggested ArtsWave may make grants available to artists in the future, but right now they must work to define organizational impact. After additional discussion about the concern of the lack of direct artist support, Ms. Margie Waller, ArtsWave Vice President of Strategic Communications and Research, went on to explain many of our local artists do in fact receive money from ArtsWave as they are hired by supported arts organizations. Further, many of our local artists start their own art organizations ArtsWave continues to support.
Borrowing from their water imagery, I accused Ms. McCullough and Ms. Waller of employing trickle-down economics.
Funding impact is simply a way to be sure the largest organizations get the biggest piece of the pie. But more troubling is ArtsWave unapologetic lack of support for the individual artist. Yes, many of our artists have started wonderful arts organizations throughout Greater Cincinnati that truly impact our communities. With no competitive artists grants, this is the only way our local artists have been able to get any support from ArtsWave. ArtsWave is not supporting artists doing art, but by doing the work of ArtsWave; heading art organizations that will bring capital into the city.
There are always a number of interesting and important conversations artists in and outside of Greater Cincinnati in which artists are engaged. Without competitive artist grants, there is little to no path for our artists to participate in these arts discussions. Of course this is a horrible situation for our local artists. This also harms any claim Cincinnati can make in the art world. And this situation is not healthy for arts in general.
Earlier this week, Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts visited Cincinnati. During this visit, he witness the work of the ArtsWave and now points to this funding machine as a national model!
As much as it claims in their calls for donations, ArtsWave does not support the arts. It uses the arts to celebrate the city. These are two very different things. I have no problem with the recognition of the arts as an important or even the most important factor of a healthy and vibrant community. Hell, I'm the biggest cheerleader. But riding the ArtsWave capital campaign on the backs of artists as administrators kills the arts.
If ArtsWave is being presented as a national model, their expanded mission, must be challenged. Those of you who honestly support the arts in Cincinnati as well as throughout the country and want artists to be able to do art, contact Ms. Mary McCullough-Hudson and demand ArtsWave develop competitive grants that are awarded directly to artists for their art work.
ArtsWave as a national model will have a damaging impact on the arts in the United State if artists face losing access to competitive grants. Contact ArtsWave and tell them you support the arts by supporting the artists.