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Arts and Humanities Local News

Actors Theatre Hopes to Attract Crowds With Building Renovations

Actors Theatre of Louisville has unveiled several improvements to its downtown Louisville headquarters.

The Actors Theatre building is across the street from the KFC Yum center. Until recently, there was little outward indication of what was inside. But that’s changed. Using $450,000 in grants and donations, Actors Theatre has renovated its lobby and refurbished the building’s façade, adding new signs and banners along Main Street.

“We needed to seize upon the opportunity with the thousands of people who are down here for events at the KFC Yum Center, not to mention the almost 70,000 people who work down here to build awareness amongst them,” says managing director Jennifer Bielstein.

The renovations come at a time when funding for the arts is shakier than ever. Mayor Greg Fischer recently told arts groups to prepare a Plan B in case city grants are cut next year. But an increase in ticket sales won’t make up for a loss of city funds.

“We need both, though. We actually, really, we need both,” says Bielstein. “Our ticket sales cover, barely, half of our expenses.”

Actors Theatre has cut its costs significantly since the recession began.

“I’ve been here almost five years. And when I first came here and then ongoing, have compared our operating budget to other places that I’ve worked, our peer theaters’ operating budget and Actors Theatre produces twice as many productions for the same amount of money, so we stretch our dollars really far,” she says.

The cuts have included changes to the season and staff, as well as the addition of co-productions—plays performed in coordination with other theater companies.

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Local News

KIPDA to Lobby for Aging Care Funding

A local agency for aging and independent living will be in Washington next week to lobby legislators in the hope of preserving the federal budget for aging care programs.

The Social Services Division of the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency provides assistance to disabled persons of all ages as well as the elderly, and Director Barbara Gordon says the agency is concerned about the possibilities of budget cuts to aging care programs

“We hope to declare an important message about how important the services and programs we provide are to these vulnerable populations,” Gordon says “but also the cost-effectiveness of these programs.”

Gordon says the agency’s aging care services allow the elderly to continue to live at home, which saves money in comparison to the high cost of nursing homes.  She also says the services rely on government funding as a way to leverage private funds, and not as the sole source of funding.

“That’s another message that we are trying to get across, is that the federal fund are needed because it is you know, our county’s goal, I hope,” she says “to serve vulnerable populations and to make sure that all those who are in need have access to the services that they need.”

The organization will meet with several Kentucky lawmakers, including senators Paul and McConnell to lobby for funding, as well as the preservation of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

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Local News Politics

Kentucky to Seek More Race to the Top Dollars

Kentucky will once again compete for federal Race to the Top dollars for education.

The money is part of an effort to funnel $500 million in early learning programs. Grants of $50 to $100 million will be awarded later this year, and today, state officials announced they will apply for funds.

The state previously changed education assessment standards to compete for prior Race to the Top grants. The new grants may not require such strong action.

“Given that the governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force has early childhood education as one of its main priorities in its final report, I would think that this is something we as a state agency and also lawmakers and policymakers are going to be looking very closely at,” says Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross.

Kentucky did not receive any money in the previous round of federal grants. Gross says it’s yet not clear what the state will have to do or prove to qualify for the funds, but details are expected later this summer.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Arts Kentucky Eliminates Staff

Effects of the recession have become apparent at the statewide advocacy group Arts Kentucky. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

This week, Arts Kentucky announced it will eliminate its executive director position at the end of this month.

The organization’s board president, Susan McNeese Lynch, says the move comes after seeing reduced funding, including state support from the Kentucky Arts Council. McNeese Lynch says it has plans for continuing operations.

“We’re now looking at supporting the work that we do — which is very specific — with perhaps a number of consultants,” she says. “We’ve got some really good depth and breath of consultants statewide who can provide the kind of services and expertise we’re looking for.”

Founded in 1995, Arts Kentucky has had a full-time executive director for the past decade. The person has overseen state and national lobbying efforts and management training for artists and arts groups. In recent years, the organization also has fostered networks to sustain arts education in Kentucky.

“We’ve also gotten deeply involved in arts education,” McNeese Lynch says. “And we’re working to make sure that we keep that particular segment in people’s minds and that they understand the implications of that.”

McNeese Lynch says the group will reinstate the position once it’s on better financial footing.

“Our goal is to get back to having staff,,” she says. “But it’s just not something we feel comfortable with doing right now until we build back up.:

Arts Kentucky’s members include 400 arts groups and individuals. It is affiliated with Americans for the Arts.

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Arts and Humanities Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Governor's School for the Arts Launches Fundraiser

The Kentucky Center’s Governor’s School for the Arts is working to offset the cuts it’s taken in state funding. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Since 1987, hundreds of talented students throughout the state have participated in the program’s workshops and its annual residential program, where they receive rigorous instruction in the visual, performing and literary arts.

Now, a 20 percent cut from state government and loss of sponsorship dollars have the program launching a campaign this week to raise $40,000 by June 30.

Heather Bell is the executive director of the Governor’s School for the Arts.

“We’re really looking to raise support for the program and engage alumni, parents of alumni and the general public in sort of recognizing the value that this program has for the young artists we have across this state,” Bell says.

One alumni is at the Kentucky Center tomorrow. Author Tania James, whose book “Atlas of Unknowns” is receiving positive reviews, is speaking about her experience in the program.

“I think at GSA our teachers are continually trying to tease out our own voices,” James says. “And they recognize something in each of us and they encouraged it. And the class was so personal.”

James is speaking as part of a celebration of Kentucky Writers’ Day, which also features a faculty member from the Governor’s School, poet Mitchell Douglas.

“The relationship between the writer and student is really great,” Douglas says. “And I tell the parents every year at GSA, ‘I enjoy meeting your babies and watching them grow.'”

Bell say the summer residential school costs $2,800 per student.

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Local News

New Arena Funding Plan Nearly Complete

The Louisville Arena Authority is expected to announce a new plan to finance the downtown arena this week.

Funding for the project collapsed last month when Moody’s Credit Rating Agency warned that Assured Guaranty, the bonds’ insurer, could have its credit rating downgraded. Assured’s rating is still intact, and the authority’s new plan apparently calls for the agency to insure the sale of $329 million in fixed rate bonds.

Moody’s has given the bonds their lowest investor-grade rating, but two more agencies have yet to issue ratings on the bonds. Mayor Jerry Abramson says he doesn’t expect the low rating to be a problem.

“Assuming there’s not a complete change again on Wall Street as has occurred twice before, we feel pretty confident, pretty darn confident actually; very optimistic that there’ll be a chance for this to go forward, that we’ll be able to nail it down and that it’ll be in the context – in the framework – of the dollars we said it was always going to cost,” says Abramson.

The final deal could be in place for the Arena Authority’s meeting Thursday.