February 16 - February 22, 1995


PINKO PATROL: You say you're not one of those elitist, left-leaning liberals who wants to drain the government dry with your high-and-mighty arts. Think again.

Just step right up and take this little quiz to make sure. You only have to answer a few questions, not unlike the ones Sen. Larry Pressler, R-South Dakota, wants to give to the employees of National Public Radio to test for political purity. And don't even think about trying to cheat. We here in the government may be in the business of cutting down or cutting out the National Endowment for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, but we won't stint a dime on national security. We have our ways of finding out whether you're telling the truth.

• Are you now or have you ever been a subscriber to the Arizona Theatre Company?

You say you only buy an occasional ticket, and only at a discount with your entertainment card? Guilty! ATC, the state theatre company, got about $45,000 a year for fiscal 1993-94 from the feds to help produce its season of six plays a year. And it seems the company will stop at nothing to push over on an unsuspecting citizenry its program of musical evenings, brand-new commissioned plays, revivals of the classics and productions of contemporary works. In 1993-94, the company also got $23,778 in "basic aid" in federal dollars filtered through the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

You say you thought you were covering costs adequately with your $20 ticket? Well, listen up. It's safe to say that virtually all of the 420 theatre companies, the 230 orchestras, the 450 dance troupes and 120 opera companies around the nation would have trouble surviving without at least some government dollars, which usually are used as seed money to solicit private donations.

Last fiscal year, the Arizona Theatre Company also got some $89,000 directly from the state, through the state's Arts Trust Fund. This $1-million pot gets refilled each year through a $15 fee assessed annually on Arizona corporations when they file for their licenses. (The total fee the companies pay is $45). The left-leaning theory behind this assault on corporate profits, which began in 1989, goes like this:

"The idea is that arts and a healthy cultural climate contribute to a healthy business climate," says Shelley Cohn, director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. "The arts are important to attracting industry and tourists. The arts provide interesting things to do. And businesses (considering relocating to the state) want to offer a quality cultural climate to their employees."

But a couple of patriots on an appropriations subcommittee in the state House, out to make the world safe for business, want to give the companies a break by bringing their annual fee back down to $30. So much for the Arts Trust Fund. The rest of the money that the Arizona Commission on the Arts gets directly from the state budget, about $1.5 million annually, is also under attack by the subcommittee.

But let's press on.

• Do you have a child in the Tucson Unified School District who has ever been exposed to an Artist in Residence?

We certainly hope not. Artists in Residence programs in TUSD last year gobbled up $7,365 in NEA money, again filtered down through the Arizona Commission, and $10,500 in state money. This is, of course, the district that provides basically zilch of its own money for elementary school arts. We certainly wouldn't want any federal money overpowering this kind of local decision-making.

You say the kids seem to like this stuff and actually learn better through the arts? That hard-working parents and teachers jump through major grant-writing hoops to get those artists in residence? We'll just have to explain away that kind of fervor by supposing they don't know any better. Or maybe they're just hooked on pork, those flush PTAs with their endless fundraisers, their bake sales and book fairs and carnivals ad nauseam.

And don't think you're safe if you live in the impoverished Sunnyside Unified School District. Your child may have been exposed to artists in residence costing our nation a whopping $2,510.

• Have you ever been to Tucson's annual Waila Festival, that boisterous street celebration of Tohono O'odham chicken-scratch music? Hey, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Your merry day of dancing to those hypnotic violins cost your fellow taxpayers $1,650 in NEA money in 1994. It's no excuse if, as you say, the affair is not just a big, regionally flavored party but a good-hearted attempt to preserve a unique cultural form. That money could have gone a long way (well, maybe not so long when you consider how much bombers cost) toward defending our nation's borders.

• Quickly now--we have lots of others to interrogate--have you ever heard the Tucson Symphony? Been to a Tucson Jazz Society concert? Wandered into the University of Arizona Museum of Art? Gone to a lecture at the Tucson Museum of Art? Listened to a reading at the Tucson Poetry Festival? Seen a dance choreographed by Ellen Bromberg? Guilty, guilty, guilty! They all get NEA money.

Ever gone to a free concert in the mall put on by Arizona Mini-Concerts, read a book published by the University of Arizona Press, checked out the Tucson Boys Chorus, Orts Theatre of Dance or caught a show at Dinnerware? All of them take money from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. And it's greedy people like you who have pushed our nation to the brink of financial ruin.

We'd send you to a re-education camp for your arts addiction, but unfortunately we've cut that item from our budget.

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February 16 - February 22, 1995

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