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Region’s arts groups need new funding model


Dayton-area arts and cultural organizations have seen their funding from Montgomery County and Culture Works cut by more than half in recent years.

In addition, long-time corporate donors such as NCR Corp. and General Motors have left the region, throwing the groups’ traditional funding models into further upheaval, state and local arts leaders told the Dayton Daily News.

Declining financial resources has led some area cultural organizations to cease operations, including Cityfolk, which was disbanded in December 2013 after more than 30 years.

Facing staff, budget and programming cuts, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Dayton Ballet and Dayton Opera merged operations in July 2012 to become the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance.

Nationally, arts and culture funding models have changed dramatically, said Martine Meredith Collier, president and chief executive of Culture Works, the nonprofit regional arts agency.

“The old methods aren’t working,” Collier said. The problem is exacerbated in the Dayton region because “the biggest corporate funders of arts and culture aren’t here anymore,” she said.

Last week, Culture Works released Culture Connects 20/20, the Dayton region’s first cultural plan since 1992. The plan is intended as a 10- to 15-year planning document for the region’s arts sector. It focuses on sustaining the area’s arts and cultural assets, and strengthening their impact on economic development, regional diversity and education to build a creative workforce.

The plan calls for developing a new, sustainable funding model that would draw from both the public and private sectors, while also requiring greater efficiency and financial restraint from cultural organizations.

That might include a dedicated public sector funding source, such as a sales or cigarette tax, like those used to fund the arts in cities such as Denver and Cleveland, said Marc Goldring, an associate principal at Boston-based arts and culture consulting firm WolfBrown, who oversaw development of the cultural plan.

“We need to be bold. This is a moment of not exactly crisis, but there is a slow, simmering issue that needs to be addressed,” Goldberg said.

In 2006, Cleveland-area voters approved a 10-year, one-and-a-half-cent-per-cigarette tax whose revenues are dedicated to supporting Cuyahoga County’s arts and cultural assets. In fiscal year 2011, more than 120 Cuyahoga County arts organizations received grants totalling nearly $15 million, according to a WolfBrown study released in August 2014 as part of Dayton’s regional cultural planning process.

On Friday, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and members of the council announced plans to seek an extension of the levy for another 10 years. In a press release, County Council President Dan Brady said, “Without the levy, the Arts & Culture Board wouldn’t have been able to provide over $125 million in grants to hundreds of non-profit organizations since 2008.”

Denver’s seven-county metropolitan area distributes funds from a 1/10 of 1 percent sales and use tax established in 1989 to support more than 300 cultural and scientific facilities in that region. The distribution budget is about $40 million annually, the report said.

Establishing a similar public funding source for Dayton arts groups is “ambitious,” but would allow them to thrive with a new financial model for the 21st century, Goldring said.

A number of prominent area nonprofit arts and culture organizations reported deficits on their most recent 990 tax forms, according to an analysis by the Dayton Daily News.

• The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance reported total revenue of $8.1 million, but had $8.53 million in expenses for the fiscal year ending June 2013.

• The Victoria Theatre Association’s expenses of $13.4 million in fiscal year 2013 outpaced its total revenue of $13.1 million.

• The Human Race Theatre Company showed $1.75 million in revenue compared to $1.83 million in expenses for the fiscal year ending June 2013.

• The Dayton Art Institute and Culture Works were both operating in the black, according to their tax forms for fiscal years ending December 2013 and June 2014, respectively.

Arts and cultural groups derive their funding from a number of sources, including ticket sales, endowments, contributions and grants.

Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in the eight-county Dayton region have an annual economic impact of $161.3 million and generate more than 4,800 jobs, according to a November 2013 study by University of Dayton and Wright State University researchers.

Statewide, Ohio’s creative industries support nearly 231,000 jobs, contribute more than $31.8 billion to the state’s economy, and generate about $3.4 billion in annual federal, state and local tax revenues, according to Ohio Arts Council research.

Gov. John Kasich has recommended general revenue fund appropriations of $24.4 million for the Ohio Arts Council for fiscal years 2016-17, a 7.6 percent increase from $22.6 million in the last biennium.

In fiscal year 2015, the Ohio Arts Council awarded $737,000 in grants to 19 Dayton-area arts and cultural organizations, and to five individual artists.

Statewide grant requests routinely exceed the Ohio Arts Council’s available resources, said Donna Collins, the agency’s executive director. In the last funding cycle, the agency met 40 percent of the need demonstrated by the state’s creative industries.

The Ohio Arts Council just released its own state arts plan for 2015-2017 to guide the development of Ohio’s arts and cultural sector.

“We have four pillars: invest, engage, innovate and lead. What we are hoping to do is to share with our grantees to be risk-takers; to find new ways of doing business before you are out of business,” Collins said.

Montgomery County has continued to support area arts and cultural groups even during economically tough times. In 2012, county commissioners received the National Award for County Arts Leadership from Americans for the Arts and the National Association of Counties.

However, in 2010, Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District funding for area organizations was cut from $1 million to $500,000. Grants to the region’s 15 largest institutions were reduced by more than 30 percent across the board and since have remained flat, said Matt Dunn, the district’s executive director.

Dunn said administering the funding cut meant doing away with competitive grant programs for smaller organizations throughout the county, including schools, churches, and community groups. “We recognize the value the arts play in the quality of life, but that’s a piece that’s missing right now,” he said.

Similarly, Culture Works cut funding to area groups by 30 percent in 2011 because of a shortfall in its annual Campaign for the Arts and depleted financial reserves.

Collier said United Arts Funds across the U.S. have been flat or declining over the past 10 years. In addition, the departure of NCR — the region’s No. 1 workplace giving site — and the loss of local ownership of other area companies significantly impacted the Dayton campaign, she said.

“If we don’t find some new source of funding, we do not have a rosy future for our cultural organizations,” Collier said


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