Inside D.C. entertainment

D.C. arts advocates tell city that every dollar counts

January 4, 2011 - 04:05 PM
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The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities yesterday released its FY2011 list of grantees, with funds going to arts groups large (Shakespeare Theatre, National Building Museum) and small (Nicole Aguirre for Worn Magazine, School Sculptures with Kevin Reese). It's a long list, but Rob Bettmann, chair of the D.C. Advocates for the Arts, wishes it could be a little longer and a lot more flush with cash. Bettmann and his board work to increase public funding for the arts, but working on a shoestring budget themselves, they've found a cost-free way to show the DCCAH the impact of their grants: Social media

"The strategy in these difficult economic times was, spread the money more broadly in order to have the biggest impact possible," says Bettmann.

This means that there are many grants awarded, but often for less than what the grantee applied for. But even those small grants are in danger, says Bettmann, because arts funding is considered to be an "easy cut."

"They think it doesn't have an impact," he says.

Bettmann has created a Facebook group called "D.C. Commission Grantees" and has posted a request that members post what their grant means to them. "We are trying to find a few examples to show what 2k, 5k, 7k, 12k etc in DCCAH grants returns to the city. If you're a good example -- please share it here."

Some of this year's grantees who have previously received city funding have already posted about the difference that just a few thousand dollars can make.

"Artists from the Folger Shakespeare Library's “Shakespeare Steps Out” program and DC students have explored Shakespeare's plays through hands-on activities, games, and performance that bring Will’s words and world alive ... for our community’s youngest learners. It couldn’t have happened without DCCAH grants," says Garland Scott, for the Folger Shakespeare Library, which is the recipient of 2011 funding. Katherine Jordan, the recipient of a Young Artist Grant for next year, posted that she premiered her new trio, "Charged Intuition" at the Eureka Dance Festival thanks to the DCCAH.

Bettmann and his board will continue to work with the city, especially in the coming months as the new mayor determines the budget.

"If we don't make a strong case for the impact of every dollar, they think they can just keep cutting," says Bettmann.

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