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Challenge and ‘Son’

Major NEA grants listed.

Sixteen theatres are among the recipients of 47 Challenge and 36 Advancement grants recently awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The grants, approved by the National Council on the Arts at its August meeting, are part of the federal agency’s fiscal ’84 expenditures.

Of the $21.1 million awarded in Challenge funds, six theatres received a total of $1.8 million. The grants are intended to “strengthen Iong-term institutional capacity and to enhance artistic quality and diversity” by broadening the base of contributed support; increasing contribution levels; providing a larger, more secure capital base; eliminating deficits or deficit financing; or developing new long-range artistic ventures.

Theatres receiving 1984 Challenge grants are Actors Theatre of Louisville, $450,000; Center Stage, Baltimore; $500,000; Intiman Theatre Company, Seattle, $100,000; Los Angeles Actors’ Theatre, $200,000; Manhattan Theatre Club, $200,000; and Trinity Square Repertory Company, Providence, $350,000. Los Angeles’ Actors Theatre is a first-time recipient, while the other five theatres are second-time Challenge grantees.

Challenge grants must be matched by at least three-to-one in new and in-creased contributions, four-to-one when the funds are used for construc-tion or renovation efforts.

In addition to the Challenge Grants, the National Council approved 10 theatres as part of a larger group of 36 organizations which will participate in the NEA’s Advancement Program during the next three years.

The Advancement Program, colloquially known as “son of Challenge,” focuses on organizations at earlier stages of development requiring “an extra measure of assistance” with long-range planning, marketing, board development, facility improve-ment and the like. During the first 10- to 12-month phase of the program, each recipient organization will receive technical assistance in developing a multi-year plan and fund-raising strategies, after which the NEA will establish actual grant amounts based on the success of each organization’s planning efforts.

Theatres accepted as Advancement participants include Eureka Theatre Company and the Traveling Jewish Theatre of San Francisco; Body Politic Theatre and Victory Gardens Theatre of Chicago; Portland Stage Company, Portland, Me.; At the Foot of the Mountain and Théâtre de la Jeune Lune of Minneapolis; New York City’s Ensemble Studio Theatre and Mabou Mines; and the Independent Eye, Lancaster, Pa.

The 36 recipient organizations were chosen from a field of 272 applications from music, dance, theatre and folk arts organizations. Unlike the Challenge Program, the Advancement Program rotates annually among the various art forms, and next year, organizations may apply in the Design Arts, Expansion Arts, Inter-Arts and Museum categories. The next Challenge grant deadline is Jan. 18, 1985. For guidelines and application information contact Challenge Grant Program, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, 20506; (202) 682-5436.

Farmers and Other Special Projects

The National Council on the Arts approved a variety of Theatre Program grants at its August meeting. In the Special Artistic Proiects category, seven grants totalling $397,500 were awarded, selected from 25 applicants. Grants ranging from $21,800 to $98,275 will assist unusual artistic projects, including a special production focusing on the social and economic issues facing the American farmer at Actors Theatre of Louisville; a production of Blooms of Dublin, an adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses at Baltimore’s Center Stage; development of a new work based on the myths and legends of Micronesia at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth; and a fully staged workshop production based on the Charismatic Christian movement at Hartford Stage Company.

Also, Katsina, a new play about the Hopi Indians developed in workshop by the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland; commissions for three plays about women by leading Latin American writers—Jose Donoso, Manuel Puig and Mario Vargas Llosa—at New York’s INTAR; and funds for an Objective Drama Program conducted by Polish theatre artist Jerzy Grotowski under the aegis of the University of California at Irvine.

In the Theatre Program’s Professional Theatre Touring category, 12 grants to touring sponsors totalling $300,000 were approved. Ranging from $5,000 to $52,600, the grants are intended to support touring presentations by professional theatre companies. Six grants totalling $150,000 were approved in the Professional Theatre Training category. These grants, which range from $5,000 to $50,000, are awarded to post-secondary programs which train theatre artists for professional careers. Recipients include the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and Yale University.

In addition, the Council approved eight grants totalling $396,000 in the Theatre Program’s National Resources category. The grants, which ranged from $4,000 to $200,000, include two grants to Theatre Communications Group in support of American Theatre and TCG’s other services and publications. Other organizations receiving grants for national services were the California Theatre Council (for West Coast Plays), Foundation for the Extension and Development of the American Professional Theatre (FEDAPT), International Theatre Institute, Performing Arts Journal, Yale University (for Theater magazine) and the New York Public Library (for film and video documentation).

Election ’84 Arts Planks

When voters go to the polls on Nov. 6 to elect a President, they will also be voting for the following arts planks written into the party platforms of Republicans and Democrats:

Democratic Party

America is truly growing and prosperous when its spirit flourishes. The arts and humanities are at the core of our natural experience. Creativity and the life of the mind have defined us at our best throughout our history. As scholars or artists, museum goers or students, craftsmen and craftswomen or the millions who use our libraries, countless Americans have a stake in a nation that honors and rejoices in intelligence and imagination. The Democratic Party will set a new national tone of respect for learning and artistic achievement. Not only will the federal agencies that support them be strengthened and freed from political intimidation, but the White House itself will once again be a place where American cultural and intellectual life—in all its rich diversity—is honored. Excellence must start at the top.

Finally, the Democratic Party is also committed to the survival of public television and radio stations, which allow all Americans, regardless of ability to pay, to appreciate high quality, alternative programming. 

Republican Party

Important as technology is, by itself it is inadequate for a free society. The arts and humanities flourish in the private sector, where a free market in ideas is the best guarantee of vigorous creativity. Private support for the arts and humanities has increased over the last four years, and we encourage its growth.

We support the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities in their efforts to correct past abuses and focus on developing the cultural values that are the foundation of our free society. We must ensure that these programs bring the arts and humanities to people in rural areas, the inner city poor and other underserved populations.

NEA Studies Policies and Guidelines

The National Endowment for the Arts is currently undertaking a number of studies with implications for the theatre and services available to all the arts.

A major study, to be conducted by former New York State Arts Council director Robert Marx, will examine whether musical theatre support should continue to be considered, along with opera funding, by the Opera-Musical Theatre Panel or moved back to the Theatre Program where it was handled originally.

The Theatre Program is examining some of its current funding categories, including ways to improve and expand the Director Fellows program to address career development needs; possible expansion of the Mime Fellowship category to include other types of solo artists; and support for theatres operating “second homes.” Last June, the Theatre Panel considered imposing a guideline that would restrict use of all grant funds under the program’s major category of support to Professional Theatre Companies to the compensation of artists and craftsmen. While the panel rejected the change for the present, it will consider the restriction again next year “if there is no progress” toward improving artist compensation in the field. In the meantime, the panel has emphasized that it may choose to impose such a restriction in certain cases.

The Theatre Panel also made a negative recommendation concerning the establishment of a “national theatre or a national theatre system, but urged the study of a national theatre project that would earmark future funds for national tours and encouragement of co-productions and exchanges. Theatre Program director Edward Martenson is seeking responses on the issues under study, as well as other recommendations, from the field. An agency-wide study of arts service organizations is also currently underway and will be taken up by the National Council on the Arts this month. Among the key questions the Council will consider are: Should service organizations be totally supported by their constituents? Should the NEA grant funds to the providers of services or to the users or both? Why should services be delivered by nonprofit rather than commercial entities? Should the Endowment be granting organizational support or restricting its funding to specific projects? Should services be evaluated on a cross-disciplinary basis or should in- dividual Endowment panels determine the needs of their fields and establish fund allocations and eligibility guidelines?

Although studied intensively five years ago, service organizations are reportedly being scrutinized again in the context of long-range planning efforts “to clarify the purposes, concerns and methods of the National Endowment for the Arts in supporting the activities of arts service organizations.” While the draft policy discussion paper prepared by the staff “recognizes arts service organizations as important resources,” some conservative elements on the National Council have criticized service organizations, characterizing them as lobbying agencies. Council member Samuel Lipman has termed them a “fourth branch of government.”

Prior studies have left the decisions on service organization funding to the expertise of the panels and staff in each of the NEA’s discipline programs. Any changes in this approach could certainly have broad ramifications for the 109 NEA-funded service organizations and their fields, since average federal support covers some 11 percent of the costs of the services.

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