We are living in an age of rage, perpetrated by both ends of the political spectrum, and during which, we are about to launch another battle over the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Entrenched interest have trampled upon and fought over these agencies more than The Ardennes.
It’s hard to believe this nation’s cultural agencies were born from a united, bi-partisan vision; established not to solve a problem, but to help us create, expand, and care for our national patrimony. Every time a fortification of bipartisan support is built to ensure their existence, it is breached by those bent on finding a boogeyman, a fundraising mechanism, a wedge issue, or an Internet meme that can rally the crowd.
It’s easy to demonize federal agencies. They’re just more bureaucracy, filled with listless civil servants indifferent to taxpayer need, right? But what if the clichés are wrong? What if the agencies on the chopping block are actually bare bones, efficiently run, professionally staffed sources of transformative and catalytic funding that enhances communities and changes lives?
Here’s another “what if.” What if we stopped disparaging and dismissing public institutions that deserve celebration and investment instead?
For five years I served as Communications Director for the National Endowment for the Arts. Since leaving the NEA I have served on several NEA grant review panels. I chair an organization that receives NEA support. I have intimate, first-hand knowledge of how it works, and here’s what I know:
The federal employees at the NEA come to work every day dedicated to responsibly distributing funding to regional, state, and local arts agencies—the ones that contribute culturally and economically to our communities.
In the last five years, arts organizations in Maine received more than $5.4 million dollars in NEA funding. Arts organizations in Portland received just under a half million dollars. The Maine Arts Commission received more than $3.6 million—funding that was then re-granted to local arts organizations around the state. The catalytic effect of these dollars is indisputable.
Portland Ovations, a stalwart of Maine’s cultural community, and whose board I chair, received $155,000 in NEA funding during the last five years. In that time, Ovations has contributed $12.5 million to the greater Portland economy. That’s just one non-profit arts organization. Other Portland-area entities funded directly by the NEA include:
- City of Portland Public Art Committee
- Creative Portland
- Portland Symphony Orchestra
- PORT Opera
- Portland Stage Company
- The Telling Room
- Terra Moto Inc.
- University of Southern Maine
The NEA’s annual appropriation is only .004 percent of the federal budget. Defunding the NEA is not about the money. It’s about the symbolism.
There remains a segment of our citizenry—and political establishment—that is highly skeptical of any pronouncement that issues from the arts community concerning the necessity of public funding for art. It serves no purpose to debate why this is so, to argue over whether this skepticism is at all justifiable. It’s enough to recognize this distrust is out there, and it’s not uncommon for it to be held by people not necessarily ill disposed to the arts. Indeed, they may well be ardent supporters.
Within this segment are two camps, those who object to federal funding for the arts because they believe the non-profit arts should be left to sink or swim in the marketplace, and those who object because they believe that the NEA (and NEH) symbolize the reign of the elites over “the rest of us” at the taxpayer expense of all of us.
To both camps, defunding the NEA “sends a message.” Indeed, it does.
To the former argument, I offer language that Congress included in its “Declaration of Purpose” that accompanied the legislation authorizing the NEA and NEH: “While no government can call a great artist or scholar into existence, it is necessary and appropriate for the federal government to help create and sustain not only a climate encouraging freedom of thought, imagination, and inquiry, but also the material conditions facilitating the release of this creative talent.” Lifting non-profit arts from the market place is about understanding value versus price.
To the latter argument I offer the millions of children across the country and the thousands here in Maine who benefit from NEA supported arts and arts education programs. When Merrill Auditorium is filled with students clutching their free copy of a new book and enjoying their very first live performance at Portland Ovations or who realize they love music when hearing the Portland Symphony; when refugee children record their thoughts in a book at The Telling Room—in short, when lives are transformed by art, there is nothing elitist about it. Funding the NEA may be the most populist thing the federal government does, by making art accessible to all the people.
It’s disheartening to be fighting this battle again, especially when it’s presented as a false choice: pay for infrastructure and defense or pay for art. I worked at the Arts Endowment when a Republican president found a way to do both and enthusiastically signed into law a $21.1 million dollar increase for both the NEA and the NEH.
Despite the current climate in Washington, it’s my hope that Congress resists erroneous symbolism, and instead embraces the transformative power of art and our government’s rightful role in supporting it.
Felicia K. Knight is President of The Knight Canney Group, served as Communications Director for the NEA from 2003 – 2008 under Chairman Dana Gioia, and is President of the board of directors for Portland Ovations.
Artist Philip Carlo Paratore talks with MECA students and others to reveal the inspiration and methods behind his unique exhibition
PORTLAND, ME | FEBRUARY 28, 2017 – Since it opened in November 2016, thousands of New Englanders have experienced the Portland Science Center’s Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibition, a multi-media, interactive immersion in dinosaur discovery. As an added bonus, attendees have also been treated to an exhibition of work by adjunct University of Southern Maine art professor, Philip Carlo Paratore, whose “Dinosaur Portfolio” is evocative of the spirit of exploration and the science of discovery.
On Monday March 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and again from 3:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. Professor Paratore will lead Maine College of Art (MECA) students and others, on a journey through his “Dinosaur Portfolio” to reveal his inspirations and methods for creating his unique body of work.
He will also provide an “artists talk” at The Portland Science Center on Thursday, March 9 at 5 p.m. for the general public.
What makes dinosaurs such superlative expressions of nature? Their fossilized bones assembled for us in museums excite our imagination, reminding us of nature’s richness and creative exuberance. At this series of talks, art students will hear about the history of the Dinosaur Portfolio as well as how and why it came to be. Attendees also will have the opportunity to talk with Paratore about his goals and methods as an artist. Students will be invited to sketch dinosaur models from Dinosaurs Unearthed.
“Soon after I began working with dinosaur images, I realized how naturally they get us thinking about serious themes such as evolution, extinction, conservation and Time itself. Of course, everyone will get something a little different from my paintings, but that is the fun and beauty of art.”
Philip Carlo Paratore’s story begins as a ten-year old boy when his two favorite things to do were draw pictures of animals, especially dinosaurs, and take trips by subway to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. These early childhood experiences led eventually to a decades-long artistic venture known as The Dinosaur Portfolio, now being presented at The Portland Science Center.
Over the years, his interest in science, especially the Natural Sciences, increasingly influenced his work, both in and out of the classroom. It has also led to journeys to Stonehenge; the Paleolithic caves at Lascaux and Fonte de Gaume, Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, the Serengeti, archeological sites in Central America, and Pithecanthropus sites in Solo, Indonesia. Whether in his studio or in his travels, the primary goal is to make connections between contemporary art and natural science.
The Dinosaur Portfolio has been presented in art and science museums around the United States and Canada including The Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology at Alberta,Canada, The Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia, The Michener Museum of Art, The Morris Museum of Art, The Virginia Museum of Science and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.
Downloadable photos & video of Dinosaurs Unearthed here
Media Contact: Jill Valley-Orlando firstname.lastname@example.org 808.271.3624
Portland Science Center 68 Commercial Street – Maine Wharf – Portland, ME
*FIRST TIME IN NEW ENGLAND*
Exhibit of life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, skeletons, and fossils
Added Attraction: Art exhibit by local artist Philip Carlo Patatore
PORTLAND, ME | NOVEMBER 17, 2016 – For the ultimate “Throwback Thursday” Portland Science Center today announced that its exhibition of animatronic prehistoric life, Dinosaurs Unearthed, will open tomorrow.
Dinosaurs Unearthed is a multi-media, interactive immersion in dinosaur discovery. Its arrival at the Portland Science Center marks the first time this immensely popular exhibit has ever opened in New England.
The exhibit opens November 18, 2016 and will run through early Spring.
(For information on the exhibition and to purchase tickets, please visit portlandsciencecenter.com.)
“Thirteen of the dinosaurs are fully animatronic,” says Joe Gold, President of The Gold Group, which owns and operates The Portland Science Center. “The creators of these dinosaurs consult with paleontologists and researchers to ensure the most scientifically accurate result. The dinosaurs move smoothly and realistically—it’s really riveting.”
Powered by customized mechanical technology and a dynamic jointing system, the dinosaurs, ranging from a Velociraptor to a Triceratops to a juvenile T-Rex come to “life” in Dinosaurs Unearthed. The exhibit places each creature in naturalistic indoor landscapes and challenges our understanding of how dinosaurs lived, looked, and sounded in their pre-historic time. In relatively recent years, paleontologists have come to believe that some dinosaurs are the ancestors of modern birds—leading to the hypothesis that some dinosaurs may have been feathered.
“The exhibit includes a feathered Tyrannosaurus Rex,” added Gold. “This may be one of the most striking for people to see.”
An added, unique component at the Portland Science Center will be an exhibition of work by University of Southern Maine art professor, Philip Carlo Patatore, whose “Dinosaur Portfolio” is evocative of the spirit of exploration and the science of discovery.
In addition to the animatronic creatures, the exhibition will feature full-sized skeletons: a Yangchuanosaurus and a Tuojiangosaurus, as well as myriad simulated—and real—dinosaur fossils.
Dinosaurs Unearthed also features interactive stations such as a “Kids Dig Table” and “Dinosaur Digestion.”
Since the very first bones, teeth, and fossils were discovered, dinosaurs have fascinated humans. Dinosaurs Unearthed is designed to appeal to all ages.
Portland School Committee voted unanimously to endorse a Yes On 2 vote, for tax fairness and greater opportunity in Portland schools
PORTLAND, ME | September 12, 2016 – The Portland School Committee is the latest municipal board to Stand Up for Students by passing a resolution in support of Question 2 on Maine’s November ballot.
Do you want to add a 3% tax on individual Maine taxable income above $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct support for student learning in kindergarten through 12th grade public education?
The resolution notes, “when the state fails to pay its share of school funding, our children and our communities suffer, as towns have to make up the difference, often by raising property taxes, cutting services, or both.”
Question 2 is the solution to the problem of the state failing to meet its obligation to fund 55% of the cost of public education. This failure has resulted in municipalities having to either fill the funding gap through increased property taxes or cut their local education budgets, reducing the opportunities for students. Children in less affluent communities suffer this loss of opportunity acutely.
School board Chair Marnie Morrione noted that Question 2 is supported by groups including the Maine Children’s Alliance, the Maine PTA, the Maine Association of School Libraries, other municipal boards, and legislators around the state.
By endorsing a “Yes” vote on Question 2, the Portland School Committee is promoting a future where every Maine child receives a great education at a great public school regardless of zip code.