Money for Something

MDCC Wolfson Campus Director of Cultural Affairs Olga Garay backs up Cappellazzo's assertion by noting that "Last year we got about $30,000 in direct support from the NEA. But we're also a member of the National Performance Network, Cultural Centers of Color, and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and all of those receive NEA funding. So if you start looking not just at dollars and cents, but at the relationships developed and advocacy developed through national initiatives, you see that the picture is much broader than a bottom-line approach of what money comes into the region. Anyone who has ever been to a performance or exhibition that they've enjoyed or that their family has enjoyed has been affected by the NEA in one way or another."

Some local arts organizations have begun to brace for dwindling funds by appealing to the private sector. One such effort has been launched by the Miami Light Project, whose directors recently initiated preparations for future fundraising campaigns by sending out a survey to subscribers; in this way, they'll evaluate the demographics of their audience. "We cannot afford to gamble with our future as a socially and fiscally responsible cultural organization," stated a letter from co-directors Caren Rabbino and Janine Gross. "Miami Light Project can become less dependent on government funding if we cultivate a larger base of subscribers and supporters in South Florida."

Rem Cabrera also has been concentrating on a campaign to increase funds from the private sector -- in this case, through a one percent hike in the food and beverage tax applied to restaurants grossing over $400,000 a year. It would affect approximately 500 businesses countywide, he says. (Hotel restaurants in the county A and all restaurants in Miami Beach A already pay a two-cent food and beverage tax, but none of that money funds cultural activities.) An estimated $3.7 million, or 40 percent of the money generated by the new tax, would go toward the county's cultural programs; the rest would go to promoting tourism and minority economic development in the county. For the fourth consecutive year, Cabrera has undertaken the daunting task of collecting the 20,000 signatures required to put the initiative before the Metro-Dade Commission (the first three efforts failed). Over the past few weeks, he has set up a table in various theater lobbies, soliciting signatures in support of the idea. In a phone interview, he expressed his concern about the apparent apathy of area audience members regarding the cultural funding dilemma. A too typical response, he said, came from one male theatergoer who refused to sign a petition; according to Cabrera, the man reasoned, "I'd rather just pay a higher admission."

Cabrera emphasizes: "They must understand that these organizations cannot survive on what they take in at the door. And the organizations can't just keep charging more. What about people who cannot pay more to support higher admission prices? The whole point of government funding is to help make the arts accessible to more people."

To express your opinion, call the Cultural Advocacy hotline (800-651-1575); $9.50 will be charged to your phone bill to send a Mailgram to your representative or senator in Congress. You also can call the Emergency Committee to Save Culture and the Arts (900-370-9000), who will send messages to members of Congress for a charge of $1.99 per minute. To sign the petition supporting the one-percent food and beverage tax, or for information about public arts support and sample letters to senators and representatives, call Jenni Person at the South Florida Art Center (674-8278), Rem Cabrera at the Dade County Cultural Affairs Council (375-5019), or the Dade Cultural Alliance hot line (858-1DCA).

When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti, so did public art. Wall murals, a popular form of political expression in Port-au-Prince, were whitewashed by the deposed military government, reappearing only since last October. Some of these paintings are documented in photographs by Martha Cooper, Gina Cunningham, Carol Halebian, and Katherine Kean, currently on view in the upstairs gallery at Tap Tap Restaurant in South Beach.

Painted in primary colors, the murals depict Aristide as priest and politician; American soldiers A one painting reads "thank you America," another shows a Rambo figure draped in Old Glory; and memorial portraits of young victims of the military regime. The ever-present rooster, a symbol of the popular Lavalas movement, sounds a hopeful wakeup call to democracy in numerous pictures. Journalistic in style, the photos provide a glimpse of Haitian street life. At Tap Tap, they have been interspersed with written testimonies -- some optimistic, some excruciatingly sad -- by several of the artists who painted the walls.

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