Saturday, January 17, 2004

Recently The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC) Board of Directors announced awards totaling more than $51,000 for arts and humanities programs in Montgomery County for the second half of fiscal year 2004 that began on January 1, 2004. Awards were given to around 40 institutions and ranged from $475 to $3,450.

Video artist and photographer Darin Boville smartly picked up on a very interesting issue that I think AHCMC should really consider.

Boville says:

This is ludicrous. Just over $50K spread scattershot over nearly forty recipients? This isn't support for the arts. This is more like the micro-loan programs that international agencies run in third world countries.

In grants of $600, of $1,000, of $2,000 you have to take very seriously the notion of subtracting out the time it took to fill out the forms, making the calls, having the meetings to decide to pursue the grant and so on from the value of the grant. From a policy point of view you also have to account for those cost of all those who applied but did not win. You have the take into account what it costs to administer the grant program.

Surely the real cost of giving away this money is larger than the value of the money that is given away.

So here is an idea for your list of things to do to make the DC-area a center for art:

Take the $50,000 for the next six months and don't give it to artists. This is like giving starving people just enough food to stay alive but not enough to do anything but wait for the next hand-out cycle. Instead, use it to hire a professional fund-raiser/PR person for the area art scene. That will pay for itself and then some. Stop the arts community from letting itself bleed to death.

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