Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is There a Theatrical 1%?

Theater Costs

Scott Walters, over on his Theatre Ideas blog, publishes the first in what he is promising to be a multi-post series called "Occupy Lincoln Center."

His first post is a comparison of the income inequality issues raised by the Occupy Wall Street movement to the disparity of contributions and grants in the nonprofit arts arena:
At the end of October, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy issued a report entitled Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change. Holly Sidford, who wrote the report, researched philanthropic giving to arts organization across the US. What she discovered is as disturbing as the Occupy Wall Street facts about income disparity. Sidofrd found that nonprofits in the arts with budgets over $5M, which she says represents just 2% of all arts nonprofits, receive 55% of contributions, gifts and grants. Let's break this out in the way we did with national income above.

If there were 100 nonprofit arts organizations dividing a million dollars, it would look like this:
2 organizations would split $550,000 ($275,000 each)
The remaining 98 organizations would each get $4591
The ratio is a about 60:1
In other words, the income disparity between nonprofit arts institutions is nearly twice as bad as the income disparity in the economy as a whole. If the arts are supposed to hold the mirror up to nature, it is a magnifying glass.
You can read the whole post here, and add your comments if you like.

Back in 2006, I wrote about a similar thing here on this blog. I looked at the sizable gap between the top and bottom of the Mass Cultural Council's grantees in the Theatre category.

The three top recipients:
Huntington Theatre Company $52,000
North Shore Music Center $52,000
American Repertory Theatre $42,330 Things drop off precipitously after this.
The Western Mass summer companies get a nice change, (Williamstown-$31,790.00 Shakespeare and Company $25, 120.) but then we start going down almost completely into the 4 digit territory.
I understand spending has been cut drasctically, but consider the ratios:
The combined grants to New Repertory, Lyric, Merrimack Rep,Company One, Speakeasy Stage, Sugan, Theatre Offensive, and Stoneham Theatre company.... $35,350.00!
All those 8 companies combined, get far less Mass State cultural money for theatre than the Huntington, ART and NSMT get individually.
Just to make things little more concrete, the $2000.00 grant Company One gets would not even pay the rent for one of their runs as Resident Company of the Boston Center for the Arts.

I had written about a very similar thing back in 2006. I looked at the sizable gap between the top and bottom of the Massachusetts Cultural Council grantees in the Theatre category: I went to see how things are stacking up today, but it might take a bit more digging. The Mass Cultural Council's website makes finding the data a bit harder now. They don't archive it there and the info for the current year is listed by county rather than statewide by category.However, it looks like most of these numbers hold very much where they were five years ago. Company One now gets $3000 instead of $2000, etc. And Sugan and few others no longer exist. Now, as then, I'm not really sure what to do with those numbers.


Thomas Garvey said...

The thing to do about those numbers is complain about them. (It's shocking that the A.R.T. is getting any public money at this point at all.) Is there a contact listed on that site?

Art said...

The ART and the Huntington Theatre are receiving 50K each currently.

The numbers have gone up just a bit for some of the smaller companies.

Thomas Garvey said...

You know, I really think the bar tab at Oberon could be paying for the advancement of Ms. Paulus's New York career, rather than the people of Massachusetts.

Scott Walters said...

Thomas is right, I think. Complain loudly, and point at people. Start with the NEA, then work your way down.