Arts Entrepreneurship — Policy Opportunity?

I don’t think anyone would argue that we’re in a period of policy transition in the arts and culture sector.  I would even characterize it as the most significant period of policy reexamination since the 1960’s.  The difference is huge, of course, as then it was a period of optimism and bright new ideas, and now it’s about cutting, eliminating, humiliating, etc.

However, when I look at this current crisis I hear my friend, Jean Lipman-Blumen saying that in every crisis there is an opportunity.  And given the depth and scope of this present crisis, there must be enormous opportunities.

So, I’ve been challenging myself, and want very much to challenge others to imagine and create new arts and culture policies that do not immediately need dollars to support them.  This is clearly a requisite condition of this exercise.  I have thought back to the creation of the national standards for arts education, which had no money necessarily attached to them.  The results from the national standards have been mixed, but nevertheless totally shifted the flow of discussion and action that preceded them.

President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal includes a reduction in the charitable contribution income tax deduction.  If enacted, the impact to donors who itemize would be in aggregate approximately 30%.  This proposal almost surely will be adopted, as the House will welcome it, and likely propose a complete elimination of the charitable tax deduction.  And not to be the harbinger of doom, but I do believe this particular tax break, which in essence created the 501c3 will be eliminated in time: if not next year, soon after.  Imagining the arts and culture landscape without the 501c3 would be a useful and productive exercise now — for all of us, but especially for emerging entrepreneurs.

One thing that I’m absolutely sure of now, as I teach emerging leaders, and interact with young (under 40) arts leaders around the country is that my generation, the boomers, need to not only pass the torch, but pass it gleefully.  There’s so much pent up energy out there among this population that we must acknowledge it and do everything to allow it to create our new future.

About the author

James Undercofler

Jim has been a Professor at Drexel University since May, 2009. His previous appointment - since August, 2007 - was as the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Jim was Dean of the Eastman School of Music from 1997 to 2007. He has played a prominent role in musical arts and music education throughout his career. Before joining Eastman in 1995 as associate director for academic affairs and professor of music education, he was an active, performing chamber musician as well as first horn in the New Haven Symphony. Jim serves as board president, American Music Center; advisory board member, Arts Education Policy Review; board member, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, New York State Association of College Music Programs and American Symphony Orchestra League, and is a founding member, NETWORK of Performing and Visual Arts Schools and Mercury Opera of Rochester.

Read James Undercofler's blog [l=]here[/l].

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