About Me

My photo
Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scott Walters on public funding

First, Scott Walters was on Studio 360, which is really cool.

Second, in a recent blog post on Theatre Ideas, Scott Walters says:

Recommendation: The NEA ought to confine itself to providing seed money for theatres in underserved communities.

If you've followed Scott as long as I have (years!) this sounds like a reframing/continuation of his belief that too much focus is placed on urban environments and that public and private dollars tend to be in theater hubs like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I'd also add Minneapolis (well funded indeed and well-loved too) to the list of big theater towns. So, under this recommendation, it's clear that the NEA dollars would effectively disappear from New York and Chicago and LA and other "well-served" communities. Scott says it himself at the end of his post: "Serve everybody, not just middle-class urbanites."

For me, I agree that the NEA should do more outreach to smaller communities and theaters. I don't see why we need to rob Peter to pay Paul though: why should large theatrical institutions surrender their public funding to pay for smaller ones? Shouldn't the goal be to increase funding across the board and add initiatives?

In my day job (which is for a religious institution) we talk a lot about scarcity models versus abundance models. When we talk about taking money from one thing (urban, cultural institutions) to give that money to rural communities, we're acting as if there is one small pot of money, scare resources, and we have to refocus those dollars one way or another.

But, instead, we see that when Americans prioritize something (say...war) money strangely materializes in sums that dwarf the entire budget of the NEA tenfold. There is money out there, and we should expect it and ask for it. I believe that both the urban theater communities and small rural communities should expect funding. The problem isn't that one group is hogging all the money.

The problem is that the funding is too low, not that funding is misdirected. We need funding to branch out in lots of directions. Arts funding shouldn't look like a fire hose, it should look running water in many, many different faucets.


RLewis said...

While I do not disagree with the idea of funding under-served communities, I do worry about how many people will get access to the funds if this is all about spreading money beyond the big cites, i.e. nyc. I blame the new census numbers for my concern, because I see where Brooklyn, just one of 5 boroughs, has a higher population than 15 entire states; and if nyc were a state, it would be the 10th largest in the country.

Right now, I’m having a problem believing that many of these states deserve 2 senators, moreless an nea grant. And to tie in your previous post, I can guess where most of the folks criticizing npr are living. Why do these few people get to tell the rest of us how to live and where our govt money should be spent?

Scott Walters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Walters said...

Hey, Matt! My title is about the NEA, a government agency with a shrinking, not expanding, budget. And while I, like you, would love to see the NEA given a much larger budget, it doesn't have one now. My suggestion is for the current reality. Landesman is concerned about using his limited budget to make the largest impact possible on the field. My point suggests one way to do so. Also, it isn't about moving all the money to small are rural communities. Sure, that's my particular interest, but to shift all funding to small and rural communities would be simply to reverse the current injustices. No, I am suggesting money be given to new theatres, creating more opportunities for younger artists. And I am suggesting using the money to expand the audience by focusing on audiences currently not being served. They might be in urban areas, if there is a demographic or neighborhood that hasn't been served. But I just don't think we need to use limited resources to serve people who already have lots of choices. Also, I think the only way for theatres to become sustainable is to turn off the tap after a certain number of years.