(October 9, 2009) -- With swipes of the pen that took only seconds, Gov. Rendell tonight signed into law a $27.8 billion state budget that was 101 days in the making.
With his "Edward G. Rendell" on the bills - one setting taxes, the other spending - the governor all but ends the nation's longest state budget impasse. More importantly, it will speed checks to counties, schools and social service agencies that have been financially strained while waiting 3 1/2 months for their normal state subsidies.
(October 2, 2009) - Two years ago, James Dupree, a longtime Philadelphia painter who has five pieces in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's permanent collection, was completely frustrated with his participation in the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours.
"I had been there all day, all weekend really, and nothing," Dupree said. "All of a sudden, at the moment of total frustration, we did $5,000 worth of business. A new person had come in and really liked my work. They bought a serious piece and had an eye for what they wanted...."
This weekend and next weekend, 275 Philadelphia artists of all types will be opening their studios and galleries to the public, hoping for just that moment - and the sale - Dupree experienced. On Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., studios east of Broad Street will open their doors. Next weekend, Oct. 10 and 11, also from noon to 6 p.m., it will be the turn of creative folks located west of Broad.
(September 24, 2009) - (D)irectors of the largely non-profit organizations that stage performances (say the new tax will) hamper downtown revitalization efforts that depend on the arts to attract visitors as well as push some of those non-profits closer to closing down.
"Anyone who's been to Phoenixville lately knows that it is the arts that have helped to bring this town back and the Colonial Theater has been the focus of that effort," said Mary Foote, executive director of the non-profit Association for the Colonial Theater.
Although best known as a venue for film, the theater also hosts live performances, which would be subject to the new tax. "We strive to keep ticket prices down, especially in this economy, especially for the children's shows we ran in the summer, and now they're going to put a tax on it," said Foote...
Charles Chepak, vice president of the board of directors of the Pottstown Symphony Orchestra, says that, given the increased paperwork involved in paying the tax, the (additional) administrative work could result in a cost increase of as much as 10 to 15 percent.
"This will truly have a deep impact on us if they follow through with this," Chepak said.
Mario F. Cattabiani and Stephan Salisbury
(September 24, 2009) - (T)he most vocal outcry has come from cultural groups across the state who have complained about budget negotiators' late-announced plan to slap a sales tax on tickets to plays, concerts, museums and zoos.
Yesterday, members of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance spent the day in Harrisburg, meeting with Rendell and legislative leaders in an effort to fend off the tax. Julie Hawkins, alliance policy maker, delivered a pointed message: The tax would cripple an already recession-beleaguered arts community and would fail to bring in much revenue, at least from nonprofit groups.
Using figures gleaned from the Pennsylvania Cultural Data Project, researchers from the alliance contend that the proposed tax would only raise about $13 million annually from the state's 4,900 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.
Research into Action: Pathways to New Opportunities offers specific insights into how the Philadelphia region's diverse population engages with the arts. The report also provides strategies for cultural organizations looking to build stronger audience connections.
"Despite the economic challenges facing cultural organizations, our research still reveals excellent prospects for expanded audience participation," said Peggy Amsterdam, former President of the Cultural Alliance. "Steps to success will be different for every organization, but the focus needs to be on engaging people in a meaningful and personal experience."
Highlights from the report include:
The importance of non-white audiences: African-Americans and Hispanics report the highest level of cultural activity, a compelling finding as virtually all population growth through 2020 in the region will come from non-white residents.
The importance of children and families: Adults with children have more active creative lives than those without children, but less than half see arts organizations as “children-friendly.”
Our bucket is leaking: In 18 of 20 cultural disciplines, Greater Philadelphia’s attendance levels are above the national average, but in a study of 17 cultural organizations, 2 out of 3 new patrons did not return to any of those cultural organizations the following year.
Role models are powerful: Adults who report having had mentors inside and outside their families were twice as culturally engaged as those who had no role models.
(September 23, 2009) - (Pennsylvania arts groups expect the tax) to harm their already-wilting budgets and deter patrons from attending as many shows as before.
Linda Boeckman, manager of the Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg, (says) the tax comes at a difficult time for theaters and play houses as they suffer with the recession.
(With the new tax), the theater's $30 ticket price would jump by about $1.80. That's not a significant amount, Boeckman said, but it would cost a family of five almost $10 more to attend a play. Those families would probably cut back on buying concessions items, she said, which affects the theater's bottom line.
(September 23, 2009) - Pennsylvania cultural leaders were "blindsided" by a budget deal on Friday, Sept. 19, 2009, that involved extending the six-percent state sales tax to cultural venues, including museums.
"We heard nothing about this until late last night. It must have been a very last-minute deal," Peggy Amsterdam, head of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
According to a Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance press release, a coalition of affected groups has requested to meet with governor Ed Rendell and key state legislators to protest the move.