Arts and Humanities Local News

Calls for Fund for the Arts Leadership Changes Continue

Arts and arts advocates will gather outside of the Fund for the Arts headquarters Friday for a demonstration.

The protest is meant to encourage the fund’s board to fire CEO Allan Cowen. Cowen threatened the job of the director of the Louisville Visual Art Association in a voicemail last month after the director and others criticized the fund for giving little or no money to visual arts groups.

The board issued a statement last week saying Cowen was reprimanded and will behave more appropriately in the future. Visual Art Association board chair Benton Keith says that’s not enough. He says he’s heard from colleagues who are equally upset.

“People are going to quit giving. They’ve already withdraw their pledges or decided to stop payroll deduction until change in leadership at the fund occurs.”

Keith is attending the demonstration, but he did not organize it. Artist and gallery owner Craig Kaviar did. He recently wrote a letter criticizing the fund’s allocation methods, too. Cowen was not available for comment. Fund officials issued a statement saying they appreciate the protesters’ rights to free speech and they hope people continue to support the fund. They did not respond to Benton’s claims about decreased donations.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Artists, Advocates to Protest Fund for the Arts

Artists and arts advocates, who have been outspoken about his frustrations with the Fund for the Arts CEO Allan Cowen, will demonstrate outside the fund’s offices later this week.

Complaints about Cowen have increased after a message he left the unsatisfied director of the Louisville Visual Art Association became public.

The protest is being organized by artist and gallery operator Craig Kaviar. It will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 pm on Friday.

Arts and Humanities Local News Uncategorized

Visual Artists Criticize Fund for the Arts

Following a recent flap with Fund for the Arts CEO Allan Cowen and the Louisville Visual Art Association, a group of visual art leaders has begun publicly questioning how the fund distributes money, specifically to visual art groups.

From Insider Louisville:

When individuals and groups give to the fund they think that they are giving to all of the arts in Louisville, but most people are shocked to find out that all of the visual arts together receive only $203,749, which is 2.56 percent of the total budget. Is this a fair distribution of the limited art funding?

The Fund for the Arts board has reiterated that Cowen does not have a hand in distributing money, and the body has taken action to rebuke Cowen. Both Cowen and board chair Ron Murphy have declined to elaborate.

Arts and Humanities Local News

LVAA Board Chair Says Cowen Reprimand Is Not Enough, Will Ask for Meeting With Fund’s Board

A local arts leader says action taken by the board Fund for the Arts to reprimand CEO Allan Cowen (cow-in) is not enough.

Cowen was rebuked for allegedly threatening the job of Louisville Visual Art Association director Shannon Westerman in a voicemail last month. Westerman and others had published a letter in Business First saying many visual arts groups receive little or no money from the Fund for the Arts.

Visual Art Association board president Benton Keith says Cowen should’ve been fired for his actions, because they’re part of a pattern of bad behavior.

“I know more people will come forward and what I’d like to do is continue to gather facts, and then I think it would be most appropriate to have a face-to-face meeting with the Fund for the Arts executive board, which I’m going to ask to do, once all the facts are gathered,” he says.

The chair of the Fund for the Arts board says he hasn’t heard the same complaints and the board has already made its decision about Cowen. A statement released Saturday says Cowen’s behavior will be professional and appropriate. Cowen did not return a call for comment.

Cowen’s supporters tout the CEO’s fundraising success. But Keith says a better-behaved CEO would do better.

“I think this community has the capability to give a lot more—a significant amount more—than it currently gives, especially to the arts organizations and folks have held back because of the current leadership,” he says.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Fund for the Arts Board Takes Action on Cowen, Will Update Strategic Plan

The board of the Fund for the Arts has taken action against president and CEO Allan Cowen. Cowen will remain in his current position, but a statement from the board released Saturday says the body acted swiftly to ensure that Cowen’s behavior is professional and appropriate.

The action stems from a voicemail Cowen left the director of the Louisville Visual Art Association last month. The message allegedly threatened the director’s job over a letter that appeared in Business First. In the letter, the director and others wrote that many visual arts groups do not receive money from the Fund for the Arts. Cowen has apologized for his actions.

Board chair Ronald Murphy declined to give any details on what action was taken against Cowen. Cowen also declined to elaborate. Murphy further says the need for funding for arts groups always exceeds the fund’s means, and reiterated that Cowen does not distribute the money.

The board has also announced that it will immediately begin putting together a new strategic plan that could lead to more groups receiving funding.

Murphy says Cowen’s actions may be related to the review, but they are not the sole reason for it.

“There hasn’t been a new strategic plan in a long time,” he says, later adding, “It’s not about Allan anymore.”

The full statement:

The arts and culture community in Louisville is the pride of every citizen of Louisville as well as Kentucky, and the envy of many other cities. The Board of the Fund for the Arts could not have been more disappointed in the inappropriate exchange between Fund for the Arts CEO and President Allan Cowen and the Louisville Visual Arts Association. Mr. Cowen’s actions were wrong, inexcusable and showed a severe lack of judgment. For these actions he has apologized and the Executive Committee of the Board has acted swiftly with a thorough review that has resulted in appropriate personnel action to ensure that Mr. Cowen’s behavior from this point forward is both professional and appropriate for that of a public figure of his stature.

These Board actions also ensure that Mr. Cowen’s 32-years of accomplishments – including raising over $150 million – can be built upon for an even more robust asset for our citizens. These accomplishments truly make Louisville one of America’s best places to live, work and raise our families.

It is the role of the Board – not Mr. Cowen and the Fund staff – to allocate Fund dollars to member organizations. Regrettably, the needs of organizations in the arts community always seem to exceed contributions. These difficult allocation decisions will continue to be made by Board members, who are civic, corporate and community leaders with a true passion for the arts.

While the board has chosen to move forward and support Mr. Cowen in continuing his role as President, we have also learned lessons through this experience and intend to institute changes that build the framework and momentum to continue to provide financial support to a diverse group of arts organizations based on need, fairness and their demonstration of a strategic plan, and to protect the integrity and independence of the individual arts organizations. We intend to immediately begin an inclusive review and strategic planning process that includes both members and non-members of our arts and culture community, broadens our appeal, listens to the community, increases our donor base and fulfills the desires of a well-deserving community.

To that end, we urge everyone to once again pull together to support the 2011 Community Campaign that makes our community unique and brings joy, enlightenment and entertainment to our citizens of all ages.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Courier-Journal Calls Cowen “Petty Martinet”

For the second day in a row, Fund for the Arts CEO Allan Cowen has been featured in the pages of the Courier-Journal. On Thursday, it was a story about a threatening voicemail he left an unsatisfied arts group leader. Today it’s 396 words in the editorial section about that voicemail, and Cowen’s actions as a whole.

The paper praises Cowen’s creativity and strong faith in the arts. But then…

Among his flaws are a Brobdingnagian ego and a temper — perhaps effective for impresarios in the days of Flo Ziegfeld and Billy Rose, but woefully inappropriate in the 21st Century world in which Mr. Cowen operates.

That flaring ego was on full display — and preserved for all to hear — when he left a voice-mail message for the head of a local arts group who had co-written a letter toBusiness First, suggesting that while support of the Fund is vital many visual and cultural groups receive little or no funding. Shannon Westerman, who heads the Louisville Visual Art Association, was told by Mr. Cowen that he had gone “way out of line” and should be discharged. He threatened to talk to Mr. Westerman’s board chair, Benton Keith, to achieve the ouster. And he finished up: “Good luck in your future career.”

Well, for starters, Miss Manners would have been shocked and so are we. Verbal threats have no place in civilized situations; leaving them on a voice mail isn’t just uncouth, it’s downright stupid.

Elizabeth Kramer, who broke the story about the voicemail, will be on State of Affairs today. She’ll discuss her story in the show’s second segment, which begins at about 1:25.

State of Affairs

State of the News

STATE OF AFFAIRS 03/04/11:  The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission will hold a hearing this month on a complaint filed against Councilwoman Judy Green; Phillip Bailey joins us with the details. A skirmish between some Louisville arts leaders and Fund for the Arts chief Allen Cowan made the news this week, and we’ll also check in with the C-J’s Jim Carroll to find out what’s new in Washington. Tune in to State of the News for analysis of these and other stories.

Audio MP3
Arts and Humanities Local News

Fund For The Arts Begins Campaign

The Fund for the Arts kicked off its annual fundraising campaign Tuesday.

The fund has no specific goal, but officials say they want to match last year’s raised total of $8 million. Slightly less than 15% of the funds will go toward administrative and fundraising costs. The rest will go to various arts groups.

The campaign comes at a time when arts groups have been struggling financially. CEO Allan Cowen told WFPL last week that the economy is only one concern for the groups. He says the increase in competition for entertainment and for donations may force many organizations to rethink their size, and possibly get smaller.

Much of the $8 million from last year was given as a recurring donation. But about $900 thousand will not be renewed—the money was either given as a one-time donation or was part of an estate gift to the fund.

Local News

Fund For The Arts To Kickoff Campaign, Cowen Says Competition Has Changed Arts Scene

The kickoff for the Fund for the Arts annual fundraising campaign is Tuesday.

CEO Allan Cowen says there is no goal for the campaign, though last year the fund raised $8 million. Some of that money was given as recurring gifts and the same amount will be given again this year. But Cowen says about $900 thousand will not.

“They’re one-time gifts, they represent gifts…one was a small bequest…[or] they represent companies that aren’t here. So we have to replace 11.25% of what we raise just to stay even. That’s pretty Herculean,” he says.

Cowen says the need for money has increased over the last few years, but raising money to meet that need isn’t always feasible. He says the recession and competition among entertainment media will likely force many arts groups to rethink their operations.

“I believe, frankly, that the arts scale in Louisville is probably going to be about 10% smaller going forward, maybe 15% smaller. I don’t say that through divine intervention, I think that’s just where the marketplace is taking us.”

The most notable instance may be the Louisville Orchestra, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Orchestra management has sought to reduce the number of players in the ensemble and shorten the performance season. The musicians say they can raise enough money to prevent cuts.

Cowen declined to weigh in directly on the situation, but he says he thinks all arts groups may want to rethink their size.

“If I drove around every day in a 16-passenger vehicle with one person it wouldn’t be particularly efficient, right? You’d say, ‘Hey, turkey, get a smaller car. Don’t tell me you can’t afford the car,'” he says.

The Fund for the Arts has been criticized for spending too much of its money on salaries and other administrative costs. Cowen dismisses those complaints and says less than about 15% of the money raised will not go to arts groups.

For more on the campaign, click here.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Fund for the Arts Launches Public Campaign

The Louisville Fund for the Arts launched the public period of its annual fundraising campaign today. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has details.

A string of arts groups and artists performed in a showcase at the Brown Theatre marking the launch of this last leg of the Fund’s current campaign. It’s raised more than $4 million so far and looks to raise $5 million more for its 27 member groups.

Last year, it raised $8.8 million of its $10 million goal.

Fund president and CEO Allan Cowen says matching grants from Yum! Brands, Brown Forman and the Humana and Gheens foundations are bolstering this campaign. The goal is to at least match the amount raised last year.

Cowen also says the current recession has caused it to work with member groups to trim nearly $3 million from their operating budgets. (In recent months, Stage One has had to cut its budget by 40 percent.) He says the cuts were necessary to make sure that all member groups survive the recession.

“If we don’t priorities now, when economic occurs, things just wont’ be here,” he says. “You will have less or you won’t have programs at all. And I think it’s one of those times you do set priorities.”

But that hasn’t kept the Fund from planning for the future. Cowen announced it is inviting all kindergarten and first-grade students, at no charge, to a Stage One production.

“And the goal is inviting the community into the arts,” Cowen says. “And we think that by beginning it with the youngest children in our community, we will be able to provide a gift to the community and build for great future audiences.”

Cowen says he expects the effort to bring up to 300,000 children to a Stage One performance.

But in the next five month, the Fund for the Arts will be going to nearly 250 businesses in the community for contributions to help it reach its campaign goal.

Related Stories
Artists Suffer Under Recession; Researchers Look at Economic Impact (includes information on Stage One)
Fund for the Arts Campaign at Midway Point