Thursday, November 6, 2008

An Election post mortem

No matter who you voted for on Tuesday (I do hope you voted) there is no denying that we have witnessed a truly historic moment in the election of Barack Obama.

As a private citizen in this great country I freely spout off my political leanings, but as a leader of Civic Theatre, I do not. The main reason is that I think it would be inappropriate when representing a not-for-profit company to announce my political leanings. A not-for-profit company is "owned" by the public, I am charged with leading this company that is not mine. I have always felt that by announcing my politics too loudly when representing Civic could alienate some of the very people that I work for. The second, and in some ways more important, reason is that it could jeopardize our 501 (c)(3) status, in other words take away our not-for-profit status. From the IRS website:

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

Therefore I did not talk about this before the election, and would still not use this forum to support any individual candidate. So all that out of the way, I do want to direct you a story published in Bloomberg news that does give me reason as an arts administrator to feel optimistic about our future. There are two presidents that are given a lot of credit for increasing the state of the arts in the United States, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Under these two men the National Endowment for the Arts flourished, the Regional Theatre movement took off, and the arts were given a national stage. Barack Obama may join that list. His platform statements on arts and culture is the most extensive ever presented by a presidential candidate. Governor Huckabee also had put forward a rather extensive plan for the arts and has a wonderful record of supporting the arts in Arkansas as governor.

Please take a moment to read the article from Bloomberg News here

I would also like to send you to a fact sheet prepared by Americans for the Arts here, as described by their website, Americans for the Arts is:

Americans for the Arts is the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. With 45 years of service, we are dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts.

With offices in Washington, DC and New York, and more than 5,000 organizational and individual members and stakeholders across the country, we are focused on three primary goals:

  1. Foster an environment in which the arts can thrive and contribute to the creation of more livable communities.
  2. Generate more public- and private-sector resources for the arts and arts education.
  3. Build individual appreciation of the value of the arts.
They are a non-partisan group, in the interest of full disclosure, Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette is a member organization of Americans for the Arts.

Take all of this as you will, we are all a part of what makes Civic Theatre wonderful, but we are all a part of the larger community of The United States. Look over these facts if you have time, and share your own opinion. Tell us how you feel about the issues of public funding for the arts, specifically through the NEA. What opinions do you have on arts education, and arts IN education. How about foreign exchanges with other artists. Health Insurance for artists and arts groups. What about letting artists take tax deductions for their work, should that deduction be based on the material value or should it be based on the Fair Market Value of the piece, a very different number. Finally any other issues of the arts and culture.

In the mean time, make sure that you come see Proof, opening tonight and playing through November 23. No political statements in Proof, but a powerful show with a wonderful cast.

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