Monumental arts mobilization

April 7, 2009
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I'm guessing that many of you have already seen the e-mail that is being circulated prodding you to join a rally on Monument Circle April 20 designed to "increase awareness of the importance of the arts to the local economy and to the city’s reputation."

The effort to show the impact of arts and culture on Central Indiana’s economy and reputation runs from noon to 12:30 with pre-rally tunes from Cathy Morris.

"Central Indiana’s cultural institutions have been sidelined in this city’s success for too long," the notice states. "It’s time to make some noise."

Quoth the release: "The purpose of the Indy Culture Matters Rally is to share with our fellow Hoosiers in a very tangible way, the impact of arts and culture on our everyday lives on a personal, emotional and economic level," said Glen Kwok, ICAA President and Executive Director of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. "Most importantly, we want the community to understand that in addition to playing a role as a vital industry in central Indiana's economy, these cultural destinations and arts organizations reach people from all income levels, age groups and cultures whether through direct or indirect participation."

More info can be found at www.indyculturematters.org. The event is being organized by the Indianapolis Consortium of Arts Administrators (ICAA).

The rally is a gutsy move...with some risks. Too few people and it looks pathetic. Even a decent crowd on the circle can look small because of the big groups that are often there for different events.

But in a town where the sports teams are asking for handouts, it seems about time that the arts organizations "make some noise."

I only wish there was a way that the rally could show the real crowds ---the ones who get out to the A&E events. I wish there was a way to get a team to photograph, on a given day, all of the people who are at performing arts events and galleries throughout the area and put all of those photos together. To see the symphony crowd and the First Friday crowd and the live comedy crowd and the patrons of community arts orgnizations and the professional theater audiences and the jazz club ticket buyers and the kids who see the work of visiting artists in schools and all the others who hungrily and happily make Indy arts a part of their lives would truly be something to see. Add in shots of the performers/artists and, well, you'd be showing quite a voting block.

Your thoughts? And will you be there on the circle on April 20th?
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  • I'll be there, and not just because I already had the day off from my day job.

    Last month, a few days after I expressed my concerns about arts funding to my politicians as part of Arts Day at the Statehouse, I received an email from Kristen Kane in the Governor's office.

    It said, in part, that during these tough economic times difficult decisions have to be made and priorities set. Many worthy programs will have funding reduced temporarily. These are decisions that no one wants to make but given the revenue forecasts for the upcoming years, everyone will have to participate if state government is to remain financially sound.

    I also received a hand-signed paper letter from my state representative, Cindy Noe. Her letter was much warmer, much more specifically pro-arts (and I have _seen_ her at the IRT!) but she, too, said, We need to balance the budget, live within our means, and not raise taxes.

    Fair enough. I do without, too, in order to not have credit card debt and to be able to see as many shows as I can. I work hard for my income and therefore do not want to see it spent foolishly. I'm still not sure about some of the decisions that the governor and my other state politicians are talking about making, but I know that they are people, too, and just trying to do their jobs, so I'll wait and see.

    But then I read in the papers that the _Indianapolis_ politicians are talking about bailing out the sports people! And I get angry all over again.

    I know I am over-simplifying, but this is what it feels like when I read the papers: arts organizations are told to suck it up or fail, while sports organizations are told that they are essential to the community and therefore deserve to be subsidized, even coddled.

    Sports organizations are NOT essential to me; they're icing. Arts organizations ARE essential to me. BOTH provide jobs and other economic assets to the community as a whole.

    I agree with you, Lou, that a rally is not going to provide the best picture of what the arts mean to central Indiana, but I don't have time to go around and take all the photos that you described. I do have time to be on the circle for an hour on April 20. So that's what I'm doing.

    That, and continuing to communicate with my politicians on every level.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • I suggest we inform the IndyStar that Justin Timberlake & Guest will be attending... you know... to make up for last time! (tongue-in-cheek)

    To be fair on perspective, sports organizations bring in out-of-town dollars, while it seems to me that arts organizations tend to attract mostly in-town dollars.

    Now, that's not to say I don't believe Arts are just as important as Sports, but if you're going to play hardball with the politicians, you have to understand their mindset.
  • The thing is the arts, in all of its forms, make a city livable and enhances its quality of life which helps make it a desirable place for businesses and their employees. Sports is just shallow entertainment.
  • Attendance at this event is paramount. My hope is that anyone who values Indy's Cultural Industry will place this on their calendar, plan to attend and encourage others to do the same.

    It bothers me when discussions like this deteriorate, at times, to an arts vs. sports discussion. That should not be the case. I can appreciate that my grandfather was one of the original inductees into the College Football of Fame and he was able to appreciate that I sought to be a professional in the arts. Indy has done a remarkable job of building itself toward the vision of being the Amateur Sports Capital -- providing great success for all of us. I take pride in this!

    This rally, in my mind, should be about placing the cultural industry (not-for-profit and for profit) on the city's vision agenda with the same focus and intent for success as has been given to the sports initiative. We don't serve our love of the arts well by questioning the value of other important aspects of our community. Rather, let's serve the arts by showing up on the Circle on Monday, Apr. 20th demanding that culture matter! Give us (The Indy Cultural Industry) equal footing!!!

    Encourage all who value arts, culture, arts in education, etc. to make their presence known!
  • Harvey, sports are an important part of this city’s culture( so is art, just look at Monument circle).
    However, that doesn’t mean we should bend over backwards for sports teams.
    The same could be said that most new art is just ‘ridiculous stuff a small group likes’.
    Personally, I think the public would take ‘shallow entertainment’ over a tire sculpture any day.
  • I’m an arts fan and a sports fan, which means I’m living proof that the two are not mutually exclusive. And while I’ve chosen to contribute more of my time and money to the Indy arts scene, I certainly don’t begrudge the pro teams that anchor our world-class city (even though I cringe at the red-carpet treatment they receive). It’s all about the experience I’m seeking. And the experiences I have when I’m perusing works at a gallery, listening to the symphony or cheering in the stands at a game are dramatically different. They’re all worthy experiences, just different.

    Of course, it’s not fair that the national and local spotlights shine brighter on the sports teams. But they do and that’s why the rally is a good idea. And I agree with Lou that the message would resonate even farther if advocates and patrons were to capture the reach of the arts in pictures. This assignment may be too big for one person or even an organization to document, but I bet it could be achieved by encouraging arts patrons to document their excursions and submit them (to you, Lou?).

    We’re all supposed to be on the same side and we all need to be rooting for a community that is vibrant, culturally diverse and economically strong. So, yes, I plan to be on the Circle on the 20th.
  • On that very day April 20, the performing arts in Indianapolis ARE coming together to raise money for the Indiana Aids Fund at their annual Spotlight performance at Clowes Memorial Hall. What is a better or more perfect sybol of community and arts organizations coming together more than this one, where the arts are giving back to the constituencies they serve? We are all in this together, and if we are to survive and thrive we must help each other and realize that life and art are interwoven in the dance we do.
  • Well said, Hope.
  • JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE is going to be there?!!! Wow! Count me out.

    Oh wait, it's a joke? Then count me in.

    HarveyF: sports is shallow entertainment - many sports fans, including me, get a lot of enjoyment from sports and have emotional involvement in the ups and downs of their sports teams. For example, I am very passionate about the success of my college football team. I root for them against all odds.

    At the same time, many people, including me, get a lot of enjoyment from the different arts and have emotional involvement in the ups and downs of their artists, museums, shows, etc. For example, I am very passionate about the Indy Fringe Festival. I go to and blog about the shows so others might decide to go, too.

    It's about what we value and there is nothing which says we can't value both. It's not a we/they issue - it's an us issue - all of us.

    That's my 2 cents and yes I will be there even if Justin Timberlake is, too.
  • I'd still like to see some more clarity on the objectives of this rally: What are the desired outcomes in terms of policy, funding, community awareness/involvement, etc.? I'm all for the cause of arts in general, but what is the specific goal here? If this is to have any effect besides a sound bite on the noon news, there need to be some action items to take away from a call to action.

    Also, I share your fear about attendance, Lou. What's the fraction of all the people in the Indy area who enjoy and/or derive benefit from the arts who are able and willing to get to this rally, and are close enough to the Downtown area to make it on a Monday lunch hour?

    The picture idea is a great one. A slideshow or portfolio of those pictures, combined with an executive summary of that excellent arts impact study that the IAC commissioned a couple of years ago, and placed on the desk of every policy maker, business leader, and thought leader in the city, might be the start of a really effective strategy.
  • Yeah, I was being too flip with my comment about sports. In my little mind I was thinking more about the Colts and the Pacers, you know the teams that have very rich owners that play in taxpayer subsidized facilities. I was probably thinking about them as they are going to be bailed out while arts funding has been cut by the City of Indianapolis and the CIB.

    I'm a big Butler fan and attend basketball and football games and also enjoy high school football and basketball games. I just don't see the value of pro sports as they have pretty much turned themselves into corporate entertainment.

    I'm planning on being at the rally; I hope there is a great turn out.
  • I think we need to put the us vs. the sports argument aside. I think a better arguement is the value we bring to the city who is trying to build a reputation as a top convention city. If people come to Indianapolis for a convention they are going to be looking around to see what there is to do. Colts and Pacers games, no matter what the value to the city, only happen so often at home. When they are no there, what is a visitor to do? That is when the arts and culture comes in. Of course if they come here and think there is nothing to do but sit in the hotel room, then all that benefits is room service and pizza delivery.

    I know growing up when my father traveled to an exciting city for a convention he often extended his stay through the weekend and brought the family so we could partake in the cultural offerings. It seems like a valuable opportunity for the city that should not be overlooked.
  • Me, too, Harvey: In my little mind I was thinking more about the Colts and the Pacers, you know the teams that have very rich owners that play in taxpayer subsidized facilities. I was probably thinking about them as they are going to be bailed out while arts funding has been cut by the City of Indianapolis and the CIB.

    But I'm not really an or person either. I like going to Indians games when I can, and when a friend gave me two free tickets to a Pacers game last winter, I was thrilled.

    Mind you, I had to choose that night between seeing that game and seeing a live theatre show, and for me there was no contest, so I passed the Pacer tickets on to someone else, with my friend's approval. But I was still thrilled to have been given the tickets.

    Justin, when I read in the IBJ a fews days ago that Indy had scored the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association for 2021 or whenever it was, I laughed in delight: You think GenCon is something? Wait 'til 15,000 librarians descend on the city! Half will be in sensible shoes, half will be in ridiculous shoes trying to break the stereotype, but none of them will be shushing anyone. They will all be looking for something smart and fun to do at night. I hope there is still some sort of arts scene here for them to explore.

    If not, there is no chance that Indy will ever be able to score the ALA's _annual_ conference, in which _35,000_ librarians gather to talk shop, let their hair down and, for the most part, spend their own money.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • Oh, and Brian: I get what you're saying about wanting to know more about the specific desired outcome of the rally, and I would be interested to read what any of the organizers have to say in answer to your concern.

    However, I'm also okay with just seeing the rally as a fun part of a whole spectrum of action-taking. This is something to do in addition to writing letters to politicians, sharing comments in public forums such as this one and, you know, going to shows.

    Come to think of it, Brian, I don't think I have seen YOU in person in months. I hope to see you at the rally!

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • And what I should have said first yesterday, to Lou: your word picture in the last paragraph of your post, above, is very effective. A rally is just adding to it.

    And what I should have said first this afternoon, to ablerock:

    Thanks very much!

    David, I'm looking forward to the Spotlight show that night. My friend is trying to get tickets as we speak.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • I'll be attending a poetry reading in the Artsgarden while this rally takes place. Would my attendance at this arts event count?
  • Hope,
    thanks so much for mentioning SPOTLIGHT in your blog. Looks like it's going to be a really fantastic show!
  • Is there a tally of average monthly/annual attendance to all A&E events in Indiana or at least Indianapolis? Obviously all those people can't show up but those who dp could be acting as representatives for 10, 25, 50 other Hoosiers that care about the arts to give a sense of scale.
  • To JL Kato: No, that will not count as being present. You need to be on Monument Circle so that when the news media captures images it will not look as if we couldn't garner a large crowd. Go to a poetry reading some other time - or better yet, the Arts Council should reschedule that event for another day entirely. Present means being there. Physically, not just in spirit.
  • Here's a fun math problem:
    One hen lays 7 eggs each year, the other 52. Which hen is more valuable?

    The Indianapolis Colts (according to a feasibility study published in 2004) generate about $7 million annually in tax revenue. The arts (according to a 2007 study) generate $52 million. And we're cutting funding to the *arts*? One point (among others here) is it doesn't matter if the arts position things with a political mindset or not, they're always gonna be the poor step children here.

    Like others, I don't like making the arts vs. sports comparison, but when art funding is tied to sports funding (via CIB, taxes, etc.), and the arts continually take cuts (even though they generate far more economic impact, roughly 3x the Colts, again, according to the Price Waterhouse study designed to forecast economic outcomes of LOS, and readily available here: http://www.ipic.org/ipic/downloadFile.do?id=51), it's hard not to take that stance.

    For fun, the arts also support 15,000 full time jobs annually. The Colts? 800, and some of those are of the Get yer ice cold Bud variety (nothing wrong with that. I like my ice cold Bud, and someone's gotta bring it to me, assuming I could ever afford to attend a game at LOS).

    And the capper? The tax money spent on LOS ($700 million+) would fund the arts for nearly five CENTURIES (back when the city appropriated $1.5 annually to the arts). And we're cutting funding from the arts. Those 7 eggs must be pretty tasty, eh?
  • To Steve: I've decided to attend the poetry reading at the Artsgarden instead of attending the rally. Doing otherwise is like a sick patient missing a doctor's appointment so he can attend a seminar on health care. If I had not made this commitment, then, yes, I would be on the Circle. But I need my poetry fix.
  • To JL Kato: With all due respect, I think you have it backwards. The arts in Indianapolis is the sick patient and the poetry reading is the seminar.
  • Hi, Steve:

    As someone who has organized poetry readings, I know that it can be a thankless job. As someone who has been fortunate to be invited to read at literary events, I know how important it is to have an audience. I'm not going to throw away the efforts of the organizers and readers of Artsgarden event. That said, we're really on the same side. So, how can I help (albeit not from 12:15 to 1:15)?

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