Monday, December 29, 2008

Next In Line for Government Bailouts? Arts Organizations.

...Many organizations that spent years building large endowments to provide more stable sources of support have seen them decimated. A number of our most loyal donors have watched their own investment portfolios be depleted and cannot provide their traditional funding. Our audience members cannot buy as many tickets as they have in the past. And our board members are less able to involve friends and associates in our fundraising galas and other activities.

This perfect storm has already weakened the fabric of our nation's arts ecology. Over the past several months, the Baltimore Opera Company, Santa Clarita Symphony, Opera Pacific, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and others have closed or come close to closing. There probably will be a torrent of additional closures, cancellations and crises in the coming months.

We are losing the entertainment and inspiration we need more than ever during this terribly scary time. As we try to rebuild America's image abroad, we are losing our most potent goodwill ambassadors. As we reshape our economy, we are losing the organizations that teach our children to think creatively. And as we celebrate the diversity of our nation, we are losing the voices that have traditionally helped change society's thinking...

Michael Kaiser, the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has an answer to this catastrophe and, you guessed it, it includes the government giving arts organizations more of your money.

We need an emergency grant for arts organizations in America, and we need legislation that allows unusual access to endowments. Washington must encourage foundations to increase their spending rates during this crisis, and we need immediate tax breaks for corporate giving.

What other failing enterprises are next in line for government money? Department store chains? Publishing companies? Liberal churches? The Detroit Lions?

When will this madness stop? Well, at least not until the news reports covering bailout scheme after bailout scheme begin to remind people of two things: 1) The money that the government promises doesn't grow on trees; it must come from American taxpayer's pockets. And 2) The American taxpayers have but a fraction of the money amounts being pledged anyhow.

The proverbial piper will most certainly be paid for our stupidity and false hopes...but it's a piper far different than those playing for Michael Kaiser's Kennedy Center.