Save The ARTist (Creativity Plus)

There is a great deal of concern and hand wringing over saving the arts. Recently, the Westchester County Arts Council sent out a plea for us to write to our congressmen about major cuts to the arts. I did is they asked, knowing that in even the smallest way our voices have to be heard.

I got an answer back not from the congressmen but from his assistant. there was a lot of blame and finger-pointing in this letter, it still talking how great Westchester County is in comparison to other locations. I will copy and post her letter, but before I do: I have something to say. Yes, big surprise.

With all the talk about saving the parts one very important component seems to be forgotten:


I am a performing and teaching ARTIST. I make my primary living from working in the Arts. My discipline is Theater/Drama, Storytelling and Creative Writing. I do not create “lasting” art in Fine Arts, but I DO perform a service in the Performing Arts.

When you cut the funding for the arts, you are not just cutting out a sculpture or a painting, or a dance or theater piece, or a choral work, you are taking money out of reach of PEOPLE who are trying to pay their bills and survive. by making these budget cuts to save organizations, you are also then putting more people on unemployment. This fall, I have been unable to find a job, mainly because in my field there’s much less work. There are also more people out looking for any work, so even jobs that I could fit into are inundated by other people looking for work.

Where would we be without ones like Van Gogh?

Is it just me, or does this just not make any sense? A good friend of mine has put it  very simply: at this point in time, if everyone across the board and that means the big boys in the middle management boys played fairly, more people to keep their jobs. It’s part of what I’ve been saying in that we need creative solutions and problem solving in place of the reactionaries.

I do not want to be on unemployment. I want to work. I feel there are ways that more people can work and keep their jobs. Today on the news from NPR I heard that more than 28,000 postal workers will be laid off soon. What jobs will they be able to get to support their families?

It’s very easy to cast blame and point fingers. As a country, we seem to excel at that.

Wouldn’t we be better off if we were creative problem solvers?

As stated above, here is the letter I got today:

Thank you for writing to County Executive Robert P. Astorino regarding funding for the arts.

Please be assured that Mr. Astorino has read your message and he has asked me to respond to you on his behalf.

The county executive understands and appreciates your concern for the arts.  While developing the proposed 2012 county budget, Mr. Astorino and his administration have given the arts the same consideration accorded to every program, service, agency and facility supported by county government.

As you know all too well, this is a very challenging economy.  There is a critical need to balance a $114 million county budget deficit with a responsibility to provide essential services and property tax relief, protect Westchester’s neediest residents, promote structural financial reform and reduce government spending at all levels.  One of the major roadblocks to maintaining the funding level for Arts Westchester and many other worthwhile programs and services, is the failure of the public employee unions to agree to make a reasonable contribution to their healthcare premiums.  Westchester County’s union employees are one of the few groups left in the nation that contribute nothing to their healthcare costs.  This ever-increasing financial burden necessitates reductions in other portions of the county budget.  The county executive, since taking office two years ago, has attempted to get county workers to agree to the same level of healthcare contributions state workers make.  While there is a reduction in the allocation to arts programs, the County Executive’s proposed budget includes funding for the arts at $750,000.  This action is in no way a reflection on the outstanding quality of exhibits and performances presented by the arts community nor the talents and efforts of all who labor to bring these offerings to fruition.  It is instead, a part of many across-the-board measures which must be taken during these difficult times.

Your views and those of all who live and work in Westchester are very important to the county executive.  Your input is both welcome and valued.

Again, thank you for writing.


Janet Lokay
Assistant to the County Executive
148 Martine Avenue
White Plains, New York 10601
(914) 995-2127

Here was my response to Ms. Lokay:

it’s not just the exhibits and performances.

You forget a very essential part: the artist has to live, pay bills, and be part of the economic structure. By cutting the arts, it’s not just the end product but the people who live through the process. Two very different things.

I am a Teaching Artist and a performing artist. My entire life is creative and my livelihood depends on schools, libraries, community centers and more have funds to hire me and others like me. I live for the educational process that is part of the learning process…and it does not seem politicians realize this.

Schools may not hire a full time Theater Teacher anymore (I have my NYS Certification in Theater), but they SHOULD hire me as a consultant, which is what a TA (teaching artist) really is. I integrate my work into the school core curricula, and it enhances, not wastes, the teachers’ lessons.

I would love to have a conversation  about this. Yes, many of us produce art that is seen; there are many more of us who produce art that is part of the educational process, for ALL ages, and we’re hurting, trying to make a living.

My thing: instead of telling me why something isn’t working, why are we not doing problem solving around the negatives out there. I’d rather know what has been attempted, or will be, instead of what is not working. I  work a lot with my students, when I get them, on problem solving.

I’m serious about talking with Mr. Astorino.

She gave me her phone number. If I don’t hear from them, and if you know me at all, they will hear from me. I will let you know what happens next. I’m tired of the excuses. Let’s get off of  unemployment

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. RAAckerman @
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 08:35:03

    Oh, Stuart, you missed the boat.
    First- how many of your executive’s staff get paid thrice what the public employees make? What part of health care do they pay- or does the exec pay?
    I seem to recall there are about 10000 public employees in Westchester. If they paid 100% of their healthcare costs it would not solve the deficit of $ 114 million. Letting public officials make claims that are unjustified – and irrelevant to the question asked- just encourages them to expand their big lies.


    • bornstoryteller
      Dec 06, 2011 @ 09:35:04

      Roy…in my email back, I did not want to address the lies and diversions in it. I understand political babble. But..I WILL do my damnedest to confront the lies WHEN I talk to the um….public servant. I can’t be just confrontational, but, well…this is a start.

      I agree with what you say. I’ve said it before: if a certain President had the balls (and the power) to do so, you’d reduce all of Congress and Senate’s health care and benefits, to what most people have now, and put them at an REAL average working salary…for three months (but don’t tell them that)…I think we’d see how fast some bills get passed that would benefit the country instead of hobbling it.


  2. Lisa Wields Words
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 10:16:17

    I am struggling with words today. I am tired of the fight. I am tired of people pointing fingers and blaming the victims. I am tired of people arguing that those who make the least must suck it up and contribute more. I am tired of discussions about how cutting taxes for wealthy people doesn’t create jobs. Perhaps that’s true, but I will never understand what creates jobs.People create jobs. Need create jobs. But, as long as the government and the money-grubbers keep their hands in their wallets, nothing creates jobs. And everyone suffers. Arts, children, creative individuals, people who make the world a better more caring place. I am tired of it all right now. I don’t even know what to say anymore.


    • bornstoryteller
      Dec 06, 2011 @ 10:21:03

      lisa…i feel the same. It’s time to stop saying and start DOING…its’ what I was getting at about the squatters in Wall Street…big noise, but nothing was done, and it petered out to just an annoyance, and is now already being forgotten.

      We need a full heads on Arts alliance, with getting rid of the fragile egos and pettiness, and that will be hard for many artists. Time to grow up and realize we are ripe pickings because we are so fractured.


  3. Marie from Rock The Kasbah
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 10:58:01

    The old phone number trick. It’s probably the phone to an empty desk because the person who manned it is now on unemployement due to budget cuts.


  4. punkrockpsychic
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 11:10:35

    Stuart, I hear you. I’m also an artist and musician. The thing is, I really feel that we have more power than we think to do something. Instead of relying on the public sector to fund the arts, there could be private sources of support from corporations (the progressive type) and private individuals. I don’t take this stuff personally any more. Since we are creative folks, we can think outside the box (which we do anyway) to create alternative forms of income and such to still earn a living as an artist. Here in Detroit, very few bars pay musicians at all. Yet, some of my musician friends do quite well selling their music on-line, just as one example. Many of the main corporations here in Detroit fund the arts, including events, venues, and such. I myself don’t like to give away all of my power to the government. The government can’t control my ability to earn money in creative ways. They can’t control my beliefs and consciousness. The government is not the all abundant, creative Universe either. Of course, activism and awareness are good things.


    • bornstoryteller
      Dec 06, 2011 @ 12:32:26

      Lisa…I agree in that we, being intrinsically creative, are stuck in a uber pragmatic world, and at this point in my life, activism and awareness is only one way I feel we can go. I do firmly believe we need a National coalition, which I thought, long ago, the NEA would be for the creative ones.

      I’m just trying to figure out my life too, in all of this.



  5. zencherry
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 14:16:06

    I’m with punkrockpsychic. Start hitting those corporations up for teaching their staff how to problem solve or something creative which you excel at. If they’re the ones with the money…change your venue. I am sorry that all this graft and greed is causing so much grief though. I once worked for a company that bought a VHS tape to teach us the value of safety for 20,000 dollars. One VHS tape. Kid you not.


    • bornstoryteller
      Dec 06, 2011 @ 14:58:31

      Maureen and Lisa and anyone else: just in a big funk, and yes, what you said makes sense, with all I’ve done. My thing, right now. is to figure out how to market myself that is not like anyone else, or get that one person who knows someone foot in the door.

      hug is appreciated.


  6. Trackback: Save The ARTist (Creativity Plus) « bornstoryteller | Random Creativity |
  7. Heidi Zeigler Twitchell
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 23:00:41

    If you appreciated this post, I you would likewise appreciate the initiatives we’ve developed for the foundation that has stemmed from Artists Supporting the Arts in Public Schools (Facebook arts education advocacy page). We’re now in action and we have viable, sustaining fund raising initiatives in progress. While our web designer is actively developing our website (it should be done within the week), you can read our updated mission statement here:
    We’re employing teaching artists NOW and in so doing, we’re bringing the arts back into our schools. For information on how you can join in our efforts, please email us at


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