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Fund for the Arts Considers Changes

The Fund for the Arts’ annual campaign has ended and the organization’s energy will now turn inward, toward revising its mission and policies.

The shakeup at the fund started earlier this year, when CEO Allan Cowen retired amid a flurry of criticism over his brusque interactions with artists and arts groups. Much of the dissent came from visual artists, who say the fund doesn’t give them the money or attention they deserve compared to performing arts.

Cary Stemle wrote about the fund in a recent issue of LEO. He says the fund is taking a new look at how it operates. That could lead to a change in the funding process, or in the structure of the 70-member board.

“It’s kind of a who’s who of corporate people. Because it is a fundraising board, from an organization that runs employee contribution campaigns, they want people who can deliver the corporate money from their companies,” he says. “It’s kind of a balancing act between not changing that paradigm and opening it up to maybe non-corporate people like artists for example.”

The fund has also released a survey for artists and community members to fill out. Stemle says that will help guide the fund as it searches for Cowen’s successor.

“It has a lot of specific questions, but it also has open-ended questions that allow people to enter a narrative of their own, to be as candid as you like,” he says. “If people take anything from this story I’d like them to know about that survey. The people I talked to say this is significant that they’re open to this input.”

Fund board members have previously rejected many of the complaints that the board is too large and that the funding process is unfair or not transparent enough.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Kansas Implements “Plan B” for Arts Funding

When he introduced his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer warned the Metro Council and the public that subsequent budgets would be much leaner. There’s a persistent $15 million gap in revenues, and Fischer says it will take fundamental changes to Metro Government to close that gap.

Among those possible changes is how the city supports the arts. Fischer told arts groups that receive city grants to put together a “Plan B” for that funding. Later, on a WFPL news special, Fischer restated his commitment to the arts, but said if given the choice between cutting public safety and cutting arts, he would chose the latter (though the funding for each doesn’t’ exactly compare).

NPR’s Elizabeth Blair recently reported on arts funding in Kansas, where a plan B has already been implemented after Governor Sam Brownback gutted the state’s arts commission.

Meanwhile, Brownback has named someone new to lead the efforts to raise funds from the private sector. In an interview, that new appointee said she doesn’t think it will be that hard … since the Kansas arts commission’s budget was so small to begin with.

When told about the situation in Kansas, Mayor’s spokesman Chris Poynter said it’s too early to say whether Fischer would consider a similar option, especially since the mayor hasn’t determined whether the $500,000 that goes to arts groups will have to be cut from the next budget. Poynter did say, however, that the Fund for the Arts already connects corporate donors to arts groups (despite complaints about that process, which may soon be changed). Further, Poynter said Director of Community Building Sadiqa Reynolds is the mayor’s ambassador to arts groups, but has not done any fundraising.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Fund for the Arts CEO Says Support Remains Strong After Cowen’s Departure

After a tumultuous start to the year and with its city grant in danger, the Fund for the Arts will wrap up its annual fundraising campaign this month.

The year started with complaints about long-time CEO Allan Cowen’s interactions with arts groups. Cowen was a skilled fundraiser, but his successor Barbara Sexton Smith says his departure hasn’t hurt fundraising.

“It’s an institution with a broad web of connections and it wasn’t just one person, although Allan was very successful and led us very well. The good news is here we stand 10-11 weeks later and we’ve not skipped a beat,” she says.

Then, last month, Mayor Greg Fischer encouraged arts agencies that receive money from the city to find a “Plan B” for next year. That’s led many artists and patrons—but not Smith—to wonder whether there’s enough community support for the arts.

“There are 587,000 paychecks in our metropolitan service area…587,000,” she says. “Only 24,000 of those paychecks are participating in the Fund for the Arts through our payroll deduction. So, is there any more money to be raised in this town? How much more? There’s a whole lot more.”

Smith says the fund’s $100,000 city grant likely isn’t in danger, but a backup plan will be put together after the current fundraising campaign ends.

“The Fund for the Arts always goes to bed on June 30th and we wake up on July 1st and hit the ground running reviewing the past year’s results and developing news strategies for the coming year. Now, when will that review be completed? I’m not sure.”

Smith says she’s had several conversations with Fischer and would like to find new ways for Metro Government and arts agencies to work together.

After the fund’s campaign ends on the 30th, the fund will begin a reorganization. As complaints against Cowen piled up this year, so did criticism that the group supported performing arts more than visual arts. Smith says that will be reviewed next month

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Returns to Court Tomorrow, Reorganization Plan Due

The Louisville Orchestra is due in court again tomorrow for a bankruptcy hearing.

Under the ensemble’s Chapter 11 filing, orchestra management has to submit a plan for reorganizing operations. Officials have declined to comment on the content or status of the plan, but the management had previously sought to reduce the number of full-time musicians.

That proposal first came up in talks to renew the musicians’ contract late last year. Musicians said a smaller orchestra would not be artistically or financially successful, and countered with new ideas for fundraising. When the talks broke down, the Chapter 11 filing was made.

The players’ contract expires this week and talks have resumed outside of court. Both sides have been silent about the negotiations.

At tomorrow’s hearing, the management could take any number of actions. First, they could submit a reorganization plan for the judge to consider. They could also decide not to submit a plan and instead ask for more time to put a plan together. The judge could either grant that request or end what’s called the exclusivity period. That would allow other parties in the case to submit their own reorganization plans. The judge could also dismiss the Chapter 11 filing or convert the case to Chapter 7. That would effectively end the current orchestra by requiring it to liquidate its resources.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Halfway to Forecastle A Stepping Stone for the 10th Anniversary

Forecastle Founder JK McKnight has announced the headliners for this summer’s Halfway to Forecastle Festival.

The Halfway to Forecastle Festival has been held annually since 2008 and focuses more on electronic music.   However, this year’s event is replacing the actual Forecastle Festival in anticipation of its 10th anniversary celebration in 2012.

“Halfway has always had kind of a different musical palate than Forecastle; Halfway is always focused on electronic music so that was definitely what we went into it thinking of doing,” says McKnight “but also trying to create a broader appeal. I think last year was pretty much completely electronic and this year we wanted to go back a little to our roots and do some hip hop.”

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Arts and Humanities Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Wendell Berry Writes and Fights For The Land, Not The Environment

“There’s something ageless about Wendell Berry”
– Garrison Keillor

Audio MP3

It’s a rainy spring afternoon on Wendell Berry’s hillside farm in Henry County, northeast of Louisville. He’s taking a break, sitting at his kitchen table, talking about what it was like to get a medal from The President. “It was extraordinary. It was an experience totally unprecedented for me. But I’m not a person who’s much at ease in exalted public circumstances.”

Berry received the National Humanities Medal in a White House ceremony in March. He says winning the award was a great honor, but it also begged an uncomfortable question: “Is this what I’ve been working all my life for? The answer, of course, has to be no.”

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Attorney Looking Into Museum of Art and Craft Resignations

An attorney is looking into this week’s management change at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft.

After weeks of negotiations, the museum’s board of directors asked museum director Kevin O’Brien and deputy director Brion Clinkingbeard to resign. Attorney Kenneth Handmaker says he’s been asked to look into the situation to see if the action was appropriate.

“I find it a strange situation for an organization that relies on public funding and contributions to treat its long-time executives with stellar job performance records to be treated in a manner such as this, i.e. being fired.”

Handmaker says he’s only looking into the resignations and has not taken any official action. Board member Martha Slaughter told WFPL yesterday that O’Brien and Clinkingbeard hadn’t done anything wrong, but that the museum would like to move in a more progressive, modern direction.

Slaughter did not return a request for comment today. Another official at the museum said this is a personnel matter and declined to comment. O’Brien and Clinkingbeard were unavailable for comment.

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Local News

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft Director and Deputy Director Leave Positions

The director and deputy director of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft have left their positions.

The museum’s board asked Kevin O’Brien and Brion Clinkingbeard to resign. Board member Martha Slaughter says the request came after weeks of discussion.

“I don’t think that there was any specific thing that either of them did that led to this. We just felt that we wanted the museum to be more progressive,” she says. “More kind of leading-edge exhibitions while celebrating the history of craft and folk art in the state.”

While Slaughter says the facility’s finances are in fine shape, she thinks the new director may be able to improve fundraising. O’Brien and Clinkingbeard were not available for comment

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Venable Confident About Speed Fundraising Campaign

The director of the Speed Art Museum is confident his organization can complete its capital campaign by the end of this year.

The Speed has quietly been raising money toward a $57 million goal for two years. On Friday, the public phase of the campaign began with $31 million already raised. Director Charles Venable says it’s likely the remaining funds can be raised through matching grants and individual donations.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Speed Museum Director Discusses Renovations, Fundraising

Speed Art Museum director Charles Venable discussed the museum’s impending $79 million makeover Saturday.

Venable told the crowd the capital campaign for the expansion and renovation is the largest ever attempted by a Kentucky arts organization.