More cultural philanthropy and a disturbing Statesman report on same.
Arts Dollar Watch
This past week was another bountiful one for local arts projects. Both the Austin Museum of Art and ARTS Center Stage announced major gifts of seven figures: $2.5 million for AMOA, $1.5 mil for the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts. The contributions included a million-dollar gift toward the construction of AMOA's new downtown home by arts patrons Bill and Bettye Nowlin -- yes, the same Nowlins who wrote a million-dollar check to ARTS Center Stage last month -- and a $1.5 million gift for Long Center from longtime philanthropists Ronya and George Kozmetsky and Cindy and Gregory Kozmetsky. These gifts put both capital campaigns around the halfway point to their projected goals: Long Center at $40 million of a projected $89 million, AMOA at $44.5 million of a projected $85 million.
If there was any rain on this parade, it might have been the front-page story in the June 14 Austin American-Statesman. Titled "Support opera or feed the poor?" the article by reporter Bill Bishop purported to examine changing patterns of philanthropy in "new economy" Austin. But embedded in its description of shifting political culture and new models for giving was the same old divisive rhetoric that's been plaguing arts groups for years: The arts take food out of the mouths of the poor. Although Bishop writes that it's "impossible to set a hierarchy of needs in Austin, one that ranks food, museums, health care, or the opera," he frames his article in just those terms, trotting out an impressive $200 million figure raised for arts construction projects in the past decade, then offering this quote from the Capital Area Food Bank's Glenda Shayne: "We haven't gotten any of those million-dollar gifts like you hear floating around from arts groups." Ouch! And the headline couldn't be more blunt. But characterizing the arts as "highbrow" and pitting it against social services, as if we can't afford both, is simplistic thinking and unfair to both those who work for and use the city's social service agencies, and the city's arts patrons and artists, many of whom devote time and money to social service efforts. Here's hoping Bishop's story doesn't dampen the fundraising efforts of local arts groups -- and that the new funding for social services keeps improving.
Oh Dad, Terrific Dad, ...
On the one hand, we dads hardly seem to deserve our own day. After all, we didn't carry a growing baby around inside us for nine months or go through the hellish pain of delivering it like moms did. And yet dads can be powerful influences on children, providing wisdom, inspiration, and love in unique ways. Local storyteller Carl Anderson -- you know, the guy who looks like Santa -- knows this, and he's making an effort to honor dads this Saturday and Sunday, June 17 and 18, at the Dougherty Arts Center on Barton Springs Road. He'll offer two programs of stories and songs -- one for families with kids ages three to 10, one for older kids and grownups -- to recognize fatherhood's peculiar joys. Kim Lehman and Joe McDermott will be helping Anderson Celebrate Daddies Saturday at 6pm and Sunday at 2pm; then Arnold Garcia, Joy Cunningham, and myself will help Anderson Celebrate Fathers Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. I'm giving the show a special plug here because proceeds go to the Uganda Children's Charity Fund, supporting orphan children in Uganda. Call 320-8536 for reservations.