Monday, January 31, 2011

Link Nation: Symphonies can die without the NEA's help, thank you very much

What would an NEA  Theater Death Panel look like, anyway?
By Barry Johnson

The NEA doesn't have to convene Arts Death Panels: The culture itself is doing a fine job of that without Rocco Landesman's lethal ministrations.  We'll count a few of the ways.
  • The Syracuse Symphony is on the brink of going dark (in "the last three years, ticket sales declined 23 percent, government support by 32 percent and corporate by 24 percent"). 
  • The travails continue at the Louisville Symphony, where a judge forced the board to honor its union contract by tapping into its endowment, part of a vicious labor dispute. The local paper decided to write a story showing that Louisville isn't the only place with a struggling symphony, listing orchestras in Honolulu, St. Louis, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Charlotte, Albuquerque and Milwaukee, with Colorado Springs representing a hopeful "back from the dead" scenario. See? America's mid-sized cities are losing their orchestras without any help at all from the NEA. That's independence!
  • That story also listed Detroit, speaking of vicious labor disputes, where the board and administration have managed to destroy all sense of community with the musicians, and recently rejected a musician proposal to end the strike, which began in the fall. We've written about this one a lot.
We'll leave the classical music part of the program with one hopeful note, from Chicago, bastion of classical music. The Chicago Symphony has begun a Citizen Musician movement, enlisting Yo-Yo Ma in the cause: "What we don't want to lose is really the glue that holds people together,"  the Chicago Tribune account quoted him as saying. And that's what makes the links above so sad.

Finally, as I sifted the web for reactions to Rocco Landesman's suggestions, I ran into Theatre Ideas: On Rocco Landesman and Muhammad Yunus, which offered a more democratic, micro-financing  approach to arts funding by the NEA, and really, arts in general. It's worth rummaging around the site for ideas and inspiration.

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