Legislators tell artists to speak up
By Heidi Masek email@example.com
Supporting arts in education was a position politicians had in common at the New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts 2008 Candidates Forum on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester.
Candidates Joe Kenney, Paul Hodes, Carol Shea-Porter and Jennifer Horn spoke and answered questions. Jeanne Shaheen’s daughter Stefany represented the former governor’s Senate campaign, while Van McLeod represented Barack Obama’s campaign.
Van McLeod for Barack Obama
While McLeod is the commissioner for the New Hampshire Dept. of Cultural Resources, he spoke at the forum as a private citizen. McLeod said he was a Republican until switching to Independent a couple of years ago. McLeod is a member of Obama’s national arts policy committee; he said Obama understands arts are about economic development and cultural diplomacy. One part of the policy is to create an “Artist Corps” that puts artists in “low-income schools and their communities.” Obama supports the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which would allow artists to deduct “fair market value” for donated works. Obama also supports increasing NEA funding, according to the policy.
Republican State Senator Joe Kenney of Wakefield is running for governor against incumbent Democrat John Lynch.
Kenney told attendees that his mother was a professional singer in the 1940s and 1950s and worked with well-known musicians. “We’re really trying to hold onto our cultural past ... the only way we can do that in some ways is to go back into the past, grab that and move it into the future. And get our young people involved as we’re doing that.” Kenney said public-private partnerships should garner enough money to support arts during a tough economy. Asked what level of funding he would support for New Hampshire’s Land and Community Investment Program (LCHIP), Kenney said he would like to see it self-funded, either through license plates or other voluntary contribution. Forum host Bob Shea, director of the Dana Center at Saint Anselm College, asked what Kenney would consider an appropriate level of state support for NH State Council on the Arts. “I would base it on the health of the economy,” Kenny said; he declined to state a specific amount of funding, saying he had not been asked that before.
Congresswoman Shea-Porter, a Democrat, is seeking a second term representing the First District of New Hampshire.
“Can we afford to cut back [on arts support] in times of economic hardship? I would say the answer is a resounding no,” Shea-Porter said. “What arts do is for us is … tell us the things we might not be able to articulate by words, they comfort us, they connect us to the past, they present the future to us. Why would we cut back in a time when we need it more than ever?” Shea-Porter said. Shea asked her about a policy the IRS set this year that “holds presenters responsible for taxation on artists’ fees.” The congresswoman said she is familiar with the issue due to a constituent’s concern. She is working on finding out what the intent of the legislation was.
Marilyn Hoffman, president of the board of NHCFTA, asked if Shea-Porter or others are looking at how arts funding can come from other federal departments, like commerce, education or transportation. Shea-Porter said she knows there is a large embassy program, and said that the Education and Labor Committee, of which she is a member, is concerned about the impact of moving away from the arts to focus on a few subjects because of the No Child Left Behind Act. “I think that’s to our detriment, I think that’s shortsighted.” When asked about failed efforts to allow artists to deduct from taxes the value of their work rather than just the value of materials when they donate pieces, Shea-Porter said she thought the current situation is “insulting.” “The best thing you can do is to keep talking to your legislators,” Shea-Porter said.
Democratic state Rep. Paul Hodes, running for his second term representing the state’s Second District, majored in French drama at Dartmouth and spent years in New York working as an actor and producer. He wrote The Edsel Was a Mistake, performed off-off-Broadway in 1975. Now he’s on the board of the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. He and his wife Peggo have produced children’s music together.
Arts funding in the U.S. is “pitifully small,” he said.
“It’s what we leave as artistic creations and expressions that we will be remembered by,” Hodes said. He said NCLB narrows curriculum, and arts are the first thing cut in schools at a time when “we need to teach our children not simply what to think on standardized tests but how to think ... we need creative problem-solvers in an increasingly complex world.” Thinking creatively leads to innovation, “which is what the economy … is going to be about,” Hodes said.
An attendee pointed out that other countries spend more on their arts and culture than their military and wanted to know what it would take to get the U.S. to redirect military funds to the arts. Hodes said that “effective government works when there is a groundswell among the citizens — an inescapable effort made to educate the representatives about what the people want.” He is “lobbied by many different groups ... [and] many different arts groups, all the time,” he said, but has not seen sufficient organization to convince many legislators “that we should cut one single fighter plane from the budget and spend the money on the arts.” Hodes said “a hard-headed argument needs to be made that arts are about business and about competitiveness” to get attention.
Republican Horn of Nashua, a former columnist and radio host who owns a business with her husband, is running against Hodes.
New to politics, she has no voting record, and she spoke from her perspective as a mother of five children, she said. Horn noted that her children’s schools have active art programs and she thinks arts need to be built into school curriculum. When asked what level of federal funding should be set for arts, Horn said, “I think that it is an important, appropriate expenditure for government.” However, she said she doesn’t yet have the knowledge to comment on what has been spent. Shea asked where she saw arts fitting into federal curriculum guidelines. They should be of equal importance to other subjects, Horn said.
Stefany Shaheen for Jeanne Shaheen
Stefany Shaheen, daughter of former governor Shaheen, spoke for her mother’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Stefany said she and her family with four children moved to Portsmouth more than a year ago because of its cultural activities. They were finding that they were spending almost every afternoon driving to Portsmouth because their children participate in arts and cultural activities there. As governor, Jeanne Shaheen worked for sending New Hampshire representation to a Smithsonian festival in Washington, D.C. She worked to find new markets for New Hampshire artists and was the first governor to lead trade missions beyond North America, and she supported LCHIP, Stefany said.
Hoffman said all candidates were invited. Gov. Lynch wanted to attend but could not, and could not get a surrogate in time, she said.
Senator John McCain was in Manchester that day on short notice, but could not attend the forum. Other candidates, including Bradley and U.S. Sen. John Sununu, were busy at his events. Jeb Bradley was also busy preparing for a debate that night with Shea-Porter, Hoffman said.
The McCain campaign originally planned to send a representative, but those available became tied up with the candidate’s short-notice visit, Hoffman said. “They have no arts policy,” Hoffman said.
Musician Tom Rush was expected to speak for Obama as well, but his wife was ill.
Artist Denise Brown asked many of the candidates about their stance on Orphan Works legislation. See page 6 for that information.