Monday, February 09, 2009

My Letter to the Tulsa World

Tulsa World
P.O. Box 1770
Tulsa, OK 74102-1770

Re: Include the Arts in National Economic Recovery Efforts

Dear Tulsa World:

As Congress considers the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the arts and culture sector must be included. The arts are essential to the health and vitality of our communities. They enhance community development; spur urban renewal; attract new businesses; draw tourism dollars; and create an environment that attracts skilled, educated workers and builds a robust 21st century workforce.

Nonprofit arts organizations such as the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa Opera, and Theatre Tulsa, to name but a few, are proud members of the business community—employing people locally, purchasing goods and services within the community, and involved in the marketing and promotion of their cities. In fact, there are more full-time jobs supported by the nonprofit arts than are in accounting, public safety officers, even lawyers and just slightly fewer than elementary school teachers.

According to Americans for the Arts, a $50 million investment to the National Endowment for the Arts will provide critical funding to save 14,422 jobs from being lost in the U.S. economy. This is based on the ability of the NEA to leverage $7 in additional support through local, state and private donations, for every $1 in NEA subsidies.

There are approximately 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations, which spend $63.1 billion annually. Without an economic stimulus for the nonprofit arts industry, experts expect about 10% of these organizations (ranging from large arts institutions like museums and orchestras to small community-based organizations in suburban, urban and rural areas) to shut their doors in 2009 - a loss of 260,000 jobs.

In a report released in mid-January, the National Governor's Association stated, "Arts and culture are important to state economies. Arts and culture-related industries, also known as "creative industries," provide direct economic benefits to states and communities: They create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases." A recent arts economic impact study in Tulsa showed that every person attending an arts performance generates 27.47 for our economy. If we conservatively estimate last night's performance of Cinderella at 2,100 attendees, than last night's performance alone brought $57,687 into Tulsa's economy.

Then-NEA Chairman Dana Gioia issued the following statement prior to his departure, "Arts organizations have been hit enormously hard by the current recession. They've seen their support drop from corporations, foundations, and municipalities. This infusion of funds will help sustain them, their staffs, and the artists they employ. We are hopeful that Congress and the new administration will support this important investment."


Martha Mattes

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

President Obama Gets the Mad Treatment

This is for anyone who (like me) ever had a teacher confiscate a copy of Mad Magazine back in grade school or junior high. I suspect many a teacher confiscating copies of Mad Magazine in the classroom is bursting out in laugther.

You know you've made it when Mad Magazine spoofs you on their cover!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Welcome, Mr. President, Michelle, Malia and Sasha-At Long Last!

At long last. Barack Obama is President of the United States. Intelligence, common sense and decency have returned to the White House. We have every reason to believe the Obama administration will work for all Americans-not just "my base," as W told his oil cronies at a fundraiser.

There is every reason to believe the Obama administration will be far friendlier to the arts than the previous administration. It is notable that the Obama campaign had a detailed position paper on the arts, while the McCain campaign had none. I am heartened by many of my fellow musicians and artists who are speaking out now about the need to promote the arts in our country, and the creative energy being expended to determine the best course of action for helping arts groups facing hard times-and educating our country as to why the arts are important (e.g., the economic impact of the arts).

In the meantime, the reality of the new Obama administration is finally beginning to sink in. These past few days I have been alternating between giddiness and pinching myself to make certain this is real. My friends and colleagues have had the same reaction. Perhaps this is a reaction to going from the ridiculous to the sublime, the experience of feeling beaten down by eight years of the Worst President Ever (not to mention his policies favoring the privileged class), of having a President I whose candidacy I supported from the day he announced his bid, my personal pride in having a President from my home city of Chicago, the rapture of our fellow world citizens at Obama's presidency-to the promise of a person of color being our Commander In Chief.

I won't go into the myraid of issues to be addressed-that would require several more blog posts! Suffice it to say that I agree 100% with conductor Bill Eddins' assessment of the Bush administration in his January 20, 2009 post to Sticks and Drones that "(i)t has been a horrible 8 years for this country for a lot of reasons."

Finally, for all the yammering of the "Christian" Right about "Traditional Family Values" (which usually means subordination of women to men and/or denying the right of same-sex couples to marital rights and responsibilities), the new First Family exhibits true family values. In the coverage of the inaugural balls I was touched by the very obvious love displayed between Barack and Michelle Obama-and by Joe and Jill Biden. Throughout the campaign I have observed how Barack reacts to Michelle when she's speaking-how he looks at her, listens to her and obviously respects her opinions and considerable intelligence. January 20, 2009 also displayed, for the world to see, the great love Barack and Michelle have for their daughters. How refreshing that we have a First Family that doesn't need to talk about Family Values, because they live those values every day.
Welcome to the White House, Barack, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Marian (our new First Grandmother). We're thrilled you're there. Thank you for stepping up to serve our country when we need you the most.