It's for real now
Ok, folks. Deeps breaths. Right in the middle of writing this week's edition of News and Notes, it was officially announced: the Electoral College confirmed that Donald Trump actually will be the next President of the United States. I know that many of you out there were holding out for the early Christmas miracle of Electors breaking from the Republican line to block Trump's way, but most of the faithless electors that spoke up instead broke from being forced to vote for Hillary. Democrats, in case you're still wondering how the Trump presidency became a reality, I urge you to think really hard on that last sentence.
Here we go. Welcome to the reality show presidency. I'm not going to lie. This is going to suck for most of you. I can guarantee you that support for the arts will be low on our man-child-in-chief's list of priorities, insofar as he actually has a list of priorities beyond "How can I make a buck off this?"
He's already tapped a whole slew of candidates to run government agencies that said candidates have sued, spit upon and outright avowed to destroy (you know, when they can remember what they are), so I actually had a weird feeling of relief when rumors surfaced that Trump wanted Sylvester Stallone to be the new head of the National Endowment for the Arts. Sure, Stallone wouldn't know the first thing about the nonprofit arts world that the NEA mostly deals with, but at least he does work in a field somewhat related to his proposed agency's mission (unlike some other nominees I could point out). Hell, if we're going to go full out with this warped reality show nonsense, why not have Stallone running this department? The NEA has spent virtually its entire existence being a small-time punching bag for heavyweights looking for an easy mark, but it has consistently refused to go down no matter how much it's been battered about, and, holy crap, that's pretty much the plot of Rocky. It certainly beats the hell out of an attorney general nominee with an abysmal record of actually protecting the rights of citizens.
Alas, those Stallone rumors were untrue (Not the one about him being in a softcore porn in the '70s. That one's totally true.) Unfortunately, for all of us, Stallone is not interested in the job. If he were to take any position in the administration, he says, it would have to be something to do with supporting veterans, which is something, really, that John Rambo should be doing. Besides, Sly is awfully busy right now producing the new Netflix series Ultimate Beastmaster, which is not the name of a '70s porno, but totally could be.
So, here it is kids. Time to see what you're made of. Are you going to shrug your shoulders and sulk? Or are you—in the words of my fellow Millikin alum and international dancer, Shawn Lent—going "Not shut up and dance"? I hope it's the latter. As much as I dig the idea of the underground theater rebels fighting back against their nationalist, authoritarian rulers with the power of performing arts, it would be better if we were able to forestall that particular scenario entirely. Sure, it starts in the kind of romantic realm of Polish protest theater, but, before you know it, you end up dodging the police and being effectively exiled from your own country, like Belarus Free Theatre.
So, let's not be Belarus. Let's not even be Poland. You all have two years to get united and get this shit under control, then another two years after that to finally put this mess behind us. Don't let Donald sneak up on you ever again; because we know what happens when he's able to do that.
Treasure ye grant moneys while ye may
In the meantime, Russian oil companies have not yet been invited to smash pipelines through the Kennedy Center, and NEA chair Jane Chu is still forging ahead seeing that department through its 50th (and hopefully not final) year. The NEA just pushed out $30 million worth of grants across the country, and, wouldn't you know it, Minnesota brought home $1.3 million of that. Compare that to Washington state's $900,000 (suck it, Seattle!) and Wyoming's mere $20,000. (That's not a typo, by the way. The entire state of Wyoming got $20,000 in NEA grants, all of it to one organization. Jeez, now I feel sorry for them.) This means that we're due for the Minnesota version of bragging: declaring that we're above average. According to the Star Tribune's analysis of NEA data, not only did our state rank 6th in the states that took home the most NEA grant dollars, but we are also above average in arts participation and in numbers of organizations that apply for NEA funds.
Really, what's most important, though, is not merely that we did well and that we continue to strive in the face of all adversity, to provide our citizens with access to the arts that they so clearly desire; it's that we beat Wisconsin. That state only nabbed $190,000 in grants. That should make us all feel good.
When the rosy glow of that celebration has faded, please turn your attention back to our own granting agencies. In the midst of all this Trumpiness, many of you may not have noticed that both houses of the Minnesota legislature will now be in the hands of the Republican Party. This means that the House and Senate committees in charge of deciding how the state's Legacy Amendment funds are divvied up will be in the hands of the party whose members once tried to get Legacy arts money diverted to pay for the Vikings stadium; and this means that, just like at the national level, we are all going to need to watch them with the intensity of a thousand hawks for at least the next two years.
But fear not, citizens. You have an active ally helping your in your vigil. Minnesota Citizens for the Arts is still there, and they want you to know that they are watching very closely to see what zany tricks the new legislature will try to pull off. When that alert comes (and you know that it will), they will need your support to put a stop to such shenanigans, hijinks, and goings-on. If you want to take a nice practice run at lobbying your government, why not sign up for MCA's annual Arts Advocacy Day? Getting involved now is a hell of a lot easier than dodging the Ministry of Approved Culture agents ten years from now.
A little palette cleanser
Boy, things have been serious around here. We need a little dessert to go with all this meat and potatoes. How about you pour yourself a sherry, kick back and watch Jerry Lewis put Hollywood Reporter writer Andy Lewis through a most deliciously awkward 7 minutes of interview time.
Enjoy the chaos that ensues when a well-meaning, but completely disorganized and unprepared young person has his hopes for a great future completely dashed by a cranky, self-important, old white guy, and, dammit, I just described the election again, didn't I?