I was very excited to see this article – a debate on funding! But, there’s not a whole lot new there. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t go deep enough and I have to say that I’m a little tired of the postage stamp argument (NEA funding equals the cost of a postage stamp per capita). At my first job as a house manager I proudly wore a postage stamp pinned to my shirt so patrons would ask me about it. It was a nationwide thing. I don’t think that argument is working lo these many, I won’t say how many, years later.
Financing our work is one of our most difficult and important challenges and I do believe that we need to change it but to change we need to risk and I don’t know if any of us are in a position to risk anything. Is the answer as one of the writers in the article above seems to think, to focus all of our efforts on individual donors? Would it be more advantageous to do more advocacy work and increase the pool of money available to arts organizations, leaving the distribution of those monies in someone else’s hands? Could we come together and make a more compelling argument than the postage stamp argument? Than the economic generator argument? Will we ever be able to make a coherent argument that the arts are just as important as health and human services? Will we ever be able to lead the discussions about funding for the arts?
Maybe we need to think more entrepreneurially – to look toward more “earned” income streams. But how realistic is that – how much more can we “earn” over ticket sales? Can we lower our costs through more efficiencies, I would say yes, but again, not by much. And the investment of human capital in both of those ventures is huge. The need for funding from outside sources will always be there. How can we make it work better for our organizations, how can we take risks together that might improve the funding climate for all?