Go lemmings go

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2001

I'm on the board of the Alaska Folk Festival and this letter does not represent the board's official position on anything. It's just to show the hypocrisy and bias against local musicians the Alaskan arts bureaucracy represents.

The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council is planning on conducting a survey at the Folk Festival tonight. The survey is part of a federal-state study on non-profits and the arts, examining the impact of arts on the economy.

The Festival is a great place to do a survey, because there are lots of people there, and because the Folk Festival brings in many out-of-town visitors it probably brings in some money too. However, when it comes to funding for arts organizations the Folk Festival doesn't measure up.

When the festival applied for funding from the State Arts Council we were told because we don't charge admission, we cannot receive any arts money.

The Arts Councils are only interested in supporting "serious" "professional" artists. The arts bureaucracy doesn't recognize you if you aren't a "professional." But Alaska, with it's minuscule population is no place to make a living as a musician ... unless you work out-of state.

I am also a local musician and performer and the way I see it, when it comes to music, the Arts Councils, both state and local, are direct competitors with local musicians. There are only so many weekends in a year and only two halls in town that are really set up for a concert performance. The Arts Councils take up as much of this time and space as their budgets will allow and devote all their energies to making these events as successful as possible, but locals have no place in their planning.

In my opinion, "Art" money does almost nothing to help train or promote music in Alaska. In contrast, every year the Folk Festival provides performance opportunities for over 150 acts and in two days of workshops every year we probably teach more music and dance to more people than the Arts Council does in two decades. We are 27 years old this year.

No, I don't want any Arts Council money for the Folk Festival or for myself. I just want you to know that they don't support local music, they compete with it. The Arts Council is primarily a place for professional artists from out-of-state to get gigs in Alaska. Some of this is good (the Folk Festival hires guests from out-of-town too) but it also diverts money and attention from locals.

Go lemmings go.

John Palmes


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