The Old Globe takes exception to Randy Dotinga’s characterization, in a recent Morning Report, of San Diego County’s public arts funding as “giveaways to arts organizations that often serve the well-heeled.”
Dotinga’s unexplained animus toward the idea of taxpayer-supported arts is perplexing enough, but his reliance on outdated and ill-informed ideas about the people San Diego’s arts nonprofits serve is truly regrettable.
The funding The Old Globe receives from the board of supervisors supports programs that serve citizens who reside in every ZIP code in this county. Yes, there are financially well-off individuals among them: Their ticket purchases and charitable contributions provide crucial sustenance to our work. But data self-reported by our audience show that a significant swath of the people we serve earn incomes well below the threshold that any reasonable Californian would describe as “well-heeled.”
For the past four years, during which the Globe has invested heavily in the work of our department of arts engagement, the number of lower-income San Diegans in our broad constituency has steadily increased – and Dotinga should know about this work, as VOSD has reported on these programs many times.
In 2016, for example, nearly 25,000 of our neighbors participated in our arts engagement programs, which bring professional theater and theater-related activities to diverse communities in Balboa Park and in such countywide venues as schools, senior centers, homeless shelters, refugee centers, correctional facilities, military installations and public libraries – all free of charge.
And in 2016 we gave away to our neighbors who could not afford to pay for them over 18,000 tickets to the Globe’s national-caliber stage productions; thousands of schoolchildren in lower-income neighborhoods were among this number.
Another community we serve is our own employees. The Globe is the largest arts employer in the county. We issued over 600 W2s in 2016, helping hundreds of working people earn a living in nonprofit arts. These artists and employees are some of the very taxpayers whose funds the county invests back into their communities through its two programs that help fund the Globe and other nonprofits in the region.
Like the Globe, every other major nonprofit arts organization here is doing serious community-based work. I invite Dotinga to join me and the countless San Diegans who, along with their elected representatives in county government, celebrate the myriad ways in which these efforts boost the local economy even as they enrich our region’s quality of life.
I respectfully suggest that the first step in that celebration is to stop recycling offhand and imprecise clichés about the alleged elitism of these institutions, and instead – and with an open mind – learn the facts about what we’re actually doing, and for whom.
Barry Edelstein is the artistic director of The Old Globe. Edelstein’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.