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Reflecting on the numbers

This graph, which looks at arts funding for Erie and Niagara Counties compared to the national average, comes from a 2005 study conducted by the University at Buffalo's Regional Institute. The report, granted, is five years old, represents two counties (not just Erie) and was based on just 22 of the many dozens of local cultural groups (including many of the 10 slated to receive full Erie County funding in 2011). But keeping in mind New York State funding for the arts is likely to drop precipitously in the coming year, it does provide a certain amount of food for thought:

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--Colin Dabkowski

What's next for arts funding in WNY?

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Oishei Foundation Vice President Paul Hogan. Photo by Derek Gee / The Buffalo News.

My coming column on this week's despicable vote from the Erie County Legislature on funding for small and mid-size cultural organizations explores what went wrong during the whole farcical process.

But in a conversation with Oishei Foundation Vice President Paul Hogan on Wednesday afternoon, the most interesting discussion surrounded what Western New York cultural organizations should do next.

His answers are insightful and sometimes unexpected, and they provide at least one template for how the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance and its many members might approach the funding question going forward. It's a numbers-based approach they've already started promoting (though evidently somewhat too late for the 2011 budget process), and it has a lot to do, among other things, with nascent the Cultural Data Project.

Take a listen:

UPDATE: Hogan posted this message on Facebook this morning, elaborating on his argument and providing links to a model study for arts funding in Philadalphia:

For folks who want to see the power of an excellent case, check out the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance report here. More info about the NYState Cultural Data Project (which provides all the data for these reports) can be found here: www.nysculturaldata.org.

--Colin Dabkowski

The weekly theater roundup

Here's our weekly roundup of recommended shows on the Buffalo theater scene:

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Kelly Meg Brennan and Richard Lambert in the New Phoenix Theatre's production of "Our Song."

"Our Song," through Dec. 19 in the New Phoenix Theatre. From the review: "'Our Song' is witty, acerbically so, and also irritating and, in the end, troublesome... Roger Piper, middle-aged, married and with a good job, spies across a crowded room at a cocktail party twenty-something named Angela, on-the-prowl for a Roger-type. The likable fool takes the bait, thus beginning a 16-month journey of first deception, then ruin, barely surviving with any semblance of his previous life or dignity. Roger’s chase of the vacuous Angela is pitiful so 'Our Song,' told by Roger in chagrined retrospect, is a lesson in folly." --Ted Hadley

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The cast of "Murder Squared" at Ujima Theatre.

"Murder Squared," through Dec. 19 in Ujima Theatre. From the review: "Ross sends us away from this entertaining evening with a couple of lessons. The first is that murder is never as simple or easy as it seems, and should not be tried at home; and the second is that holiday theater doesn’t have to have to be wrapped up with a bow to be a swell gift for those who get it." --Melinda Miller

"A Totalitarian Christmas," through Dec. 19 in Subversive Theatre. From the review: "This show, by Clinton Ours and directed and adapted by Kurt Schneiderman, had its origin as a staged reading last December. And it is about as tongue-in-cheek as it gets. With its own particularly crass brand of humor and some similarly rough-hewn performances, the piece skewers the rampant consumerism of the Christmas season and lampoons political figures like Sarah Palin and Carl Paladino. In doing so, it produces a fair amount of chuckle-worthy material..." --Colin Dabkowski

Review Jeff Simon's chat about arts cuts and more

The arts community is angry at the Erie County Executive and Republican legislators following this week's budget developments in the debate over cultural funding.

News Arts Editor Jeff Simon discussed that issue, upcoming movie releases and more during his biweekly live chat:

Intimate Springsteen show streams today!

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Last week, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed an intimate gig before roughly 60 fans inside the Carousel House, a historic site located in -- wait for it! -- Asbury Park, New Jersey! With the exception of guitarist Nils Lofgren and vocalist Patti Scialfa, the full E Street Band -- Springsteen, Stevie Van Zandt, Clarence Clemons, Max Weinberg, Roy Bittan and Gary W. Tallent, with guests Charlie Giordano and a five-piece horn section -- was represented. The reason for this open rehearsal/jam session? The band was filming its performance of songs from the new "The Promise" set. Here's what they played: 

Racing in the Street (78)
Gotta Get That Feeling
Ain't Good Enough For You
The Promise
Blue Christmas

Watch it streaming on VEVO, today through Jan. 1, right here. 

-- Jeff Miers

Albright-Knox retools its website

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The Albright-Knox Art Gallery launched a shiny new website today. Check it out.

--Colin DabkowskI

The plot thickens on cultural funding

Let it be known that Erie County Executive Chris Collins is a man of fierce political intelligence.

Yesterday, in his veto message to the Erie County Legislature, Collins declared the Democrats' entire budget amendment package "null and void." He suggested that he is prepared to back up that assertion in court. But just to make sure that the legislature does not defy any segment of his proposed budget, he made sure to tie his allocation of $3 million in library funding to a promise from Republicans not to override his vetos.

This way, Collins is wielding what many view as a credible threat -- that of legally ignoring the entirety of the budget amendment package, which would have restored $4 million to the libraries and $1.2 million to cultural organizations -- as a scare tactic to force legislature Republicans to uphold his will.

The whole situation is incredibly intricate and complex, and demonstrates Collins' formidable Machiavellian streak and his intuitive understanding of the way Erie County's political machine can be twisted and manipulated. The Legislature's Democrats are struggling to keep up with him.

All of this is a skillfully plotted and sinister tactic for Collins to assert a kind of dictatorial leadership over the county budget process, and one that Legislature Democrats are now trying to fight with a court-ordered delay to today's veto override session.

Last night, I spoke with Republican Legislator Kevin Hardwick, who attempted to explain the labyrinthine process and his thinking on potentially overriding Collins' vetos at today's Legislature session -- scheduled for 2 p.m. but perhaps to be delayed. Hardwick, who certainly sounds as if he has his heart in the right place, also sounds like he may be falling victim to Collins' full-court press of political fearmongering.

Here's what he had to say (it's a good listen, and it demonstrates how Collins consistently throws curve-balls to the Legislature and, in essence, attempts to intimidate and confuse them into voting his way):

 

"If the County Executive is right" about the Democrats' amendment not having been properly proposed, voted on and filed, "it is game, set and match," Hardwick said. The Dems -- and cultural supporters across the county -- say Collins is wrong, and they seem to have plenty of data to prove it.

It will be fascinating to see this whole process play out. Here's hoping it tilts in favor of reason, and away from fear.

 

--Colin Dabkowski

Weekly theater roundup

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The cast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Music of Vince Guaraldi," at Road Less Traveled Theatre.

The holidays have arrived. And with them, scads of holiday productions, ranging from Road Less Traveled Productions' "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (running through Dec. 19) to Mike Randall's annual reading of "A Christmas Carol," (Dec. 17 to 19 in MusicalFare Theatre) are playing on local stages. Here's our weekly list of shows our reviewers enjoyed. We hope you will, too:

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The cast of "Murder Squared" at Ujima Theatre.

"Murder Squared," through Dec. 19 in Ujima Theatre. From the review: "Ross sends us away from this entertaining evening with a couple of lessons. The first is that murder is never as simple or easy as it seems, and should not be tried at home; and the second is that holiday theater doesn’t have to have to be wrapped up with a bow to be a swell gift for those who get it." --Melinda Miller

"A Totalitarian Christmas," through Dec. 19 in Subversive Theatre. From the review: "This show, by Clinton Ours and directed and adapted by Kurt Schneiderman, had its origin as a staged reading last December. And it is about as tongue-in-cheek as it gets. With its own particularly crass brand of humor and some similarly rough-hewn performances, the piece skewers the rampant consumerism of the Christmas season and lampoons political figures like Sarah Palin and Carl Paladino. In doing so, it produces a fair amount of chuckle-worthy material..." --Colin Dabkowski

The Low Anthem offer free download, prep new album for February release

If you happen to have been one of the several hundred in attendance when the Low Anthem opened for the Swell Season at Ani DiFranco's Babeville, you know that the former church felt like sacred ground on that night. This band crafts haunted songs, mellow but hypnotic little bits of audio verite that feel somehow familiar upon first hearing. The band will drop a new album, "Smart Flesh, on February 22nd, via Nonesuch Records. Apparently feeling a bit of holiday season generosity, the Low Anthem is offering a free download of the song that will open "Smart Flesh," "Ghost Woman Blues." Here it is.

- Jeff Miers

Here's a live rendition of the song, too.

This week's new music, on disc, download and vinyl

Popa Chubby, The Essential Popa Chubby (Blind Pig)

Crystal Bowersox, Farmer's Daughter (Jive)

Ciara, Basic Instinct (Laface)

Michael Jackson, Michael (Epic)

R. Kelly, Love Letter (Jive)

Kid Rock, Born Free - 2 vinyl LP with bonus CD Edition (Atlantic)

Phish, Alpine Valley 2010 (Jemp) />

Brian Setzer Orchestra, It's Gonna Rock Cause That's What I Do (Surfdog)

Sonic Youth, Sister - 180 gram Vinyl Edition (WEA) />

The White Stripes, White Blood Cells - 180 gram Vinyl Edition (WEA)

Van Halen, Van Halen II - 180 gram Vinyl Edition (WEA) />

Van Halen, Women and Children First - 180 gram Vinyl Edition (WEA)
Van Halen, 1984 - 180 gram Vinyl Edition (WEA)

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