Monday, May 25, 2009

Fewer Calls to Artists

There are definitely few calls compared to a year ago at this time. We keep a database of several thousand organizations we have dealt with during the past 10 or more years. The first thing we do when preparing for an issue of AOM is to check the sites of those whose calls we published 12 months previously. A very few sites have have disappeared, a few are still up but clearly haven't been touched in several months and may still be showing last year's call.. Several have messages such as "Please check back to this page beginning January, 2009, for our 2009-10 Call to Artist Information," even though it is now the end of May.

In many cases this lack of action is because of funding cuts, in others, because of the fear of them. Most art centers get a substantial part of their funding from their local governments. In the US, art is seen as "enrichment" -- something that may make life more pleasant but which is not important -- rather than a serious endeavor which can ultimately alter a culture, hence one of the first things to go when budget cuts seem in order.

In many cities and states in the US, as well as in Australia, most of Europe, and in major Canadian cities, percent-for-art programs mandate that 1/2 to 2 percent of the cost of a publicly-funded building or major renovation project be spent on art. The advantage of this system is that funding cannot be cut off through normal budget cuts but would have to be done via new legislation such as was unsuccessfully tried by a Washington state senator. The disadvantage is of course that when there are fewer such projects, there are fewer public art commissions. The real impact of a slowdown might not be seen for a while, as most such building projects are planned and funded long before actual work starts.

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