Wishful thinking

To the editor,

Your article, “Shift in arts funding“, [Philanthropy Journal, 11.22.04] represented nothing more than wishful thinking by leaders of Wake County’s arts council, otherwise known as United Arts of Raleigh and Wake County.

It was of great interest to me that no one was interviewed or quoted from the City of Raleigh or the Raleigh Arts Commission. Do you not even pretend to be objective at the Philanthropy Journal?

United Arts has had a bee in it’s bonnet for almost a decade now that it would like to consolidate – “take over” is the proper term — the city’s very unique Arts Commission.

While that may seem logical to some, if you know your basic civics, it is simply not possible or even legal.

The Arts Commission administers arts programming for the city and only the city proper, because its money comes from city coffers based on a formula of $3.50 per capita of folks living in the city limits of Raleigh.

Mammoth Wake County has a total of 12 different municipalities, many of which have their own arts councils.

United Arts provides financial assistance to groups in the City of Raleigh, the rural areas of the county and the other 11 municipalities in Wake.

There is no way the money can be commingled.

The Arts Commission has an excellent track record of stewardship of the city’s arts funding, and there is absolutely no reason to even discuss any consolidation with the Wake County group, which doesn’t have as stellar a record.

It is my opinion that arts councils that do not program and only raise money have a hard time getting people to contribute because they don’t do anything concrete to excite the public to contribute.

Not unlike Wake County, The Arts Council in Winston-Salem, the nation’s original arts council, is studying how it can reinvent itself to be more relevant in the 21st century.

United Arts, which in part was a creature of the Raleigh Arts Commission to begin with, does not raise enough money in this county of 700,000 people to justify it existence.

By comparison, the Hickory Arts Council, a town of 25,000, raises far more money than the Wake County body.

United Arts needs to spend its time reevaluating and redefining itself because it’s not going to get to first base on consolidating anything with the City of Raleigh.

The organization has not met the public’s expectations and needs to reinvent itself or fold.

Rather than looking longingly at the Arts Commission’s money pot and trying to figure out how it can get it hands on it, United Arts leaders should look inward and figure out how the organization can become relevant to the communities it is supposed to serve.

In the meantime, the Raleigh Arts Commission will go about its business of serving its very specific constituency–the people who live in Raleigh.

Lee Hansley, proprietor, Lee Hansley Gallery, and twice chair of the Raleigh Arts Commission.

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