AIG – Execs Donate Bonus Pay to Arts Fund
In an astounding turn of events, AIG Executives have decided to donate all bonus money to the Keep the Arts Alive Fund that was set up specifically to keep theatre companies afloat during the economic downturn. An anonymous AIG exec said, “Well, we all felt really badly about taking this money therefore we decided we would donate all $165,000,000 to the Arts Community. It’s the least that we could do.” Suddenly I woke up, and back to reality.
As the dust settles with the AIG bonuses, it has become clear that we won’t be getting all that money back. Nothing like rewarding people for failure, and as the ship goes down we help those people that put the hole in the boat to begin with. Oh right, it was in their “contract”, so there is nothing we can do. Please.
How much money is slipping though the cracks in this stimulus plan? Where is all the money really going? If you ask me, this money should have gone to the arts. Why give the money back to the government? They should make these execs donate all of their money to a charity, preferably the arts.
The worst thing that could happen is that you offer comps or discounted tickets and you end up having full houses for the first couple weeks of your run. From a marketing standpoint, you have closed out your inventory and if people are turned away, you have created demand. There is something to be said for a ticket that is difficult to get.
Can you imagine what would happen with an influx of 165,000,000 dollars and what that would do for the arts community? I’ll tell you. Great things. First, it would create/save thousands of jobs. There have been numerous articles recently written about how many local theatres will go dark in 2009 due to a lack of funding. At first glance you may think that this is not a big deal, however, when you look a bit deeper you realize just how much that these theatres contribute to the surrounding business.
Keeping theatres alive would directly affect nearby business because theatre brings people into certain areas. When patrons attend shows, many go out to dinner before the show, have a drink after and frequent other establishments. All directly benefiting those around them, which in turn increase’s revenue and keeps people working.
Let’s set up an arts fund for all these executive’s to donate his or her bonus money. We could then have an application process, which would allow theatre’s to apply for a $50,000 grant. Stipulations could be that the theatre would have to have been in business for at least 2 years, have its own theatre with 150 seats or less and maybe even throw in that they have to be non-profit. With $50,000 going to each approved applicant, our fund would give 3,300 arts groups the money to stay afloat for the next 12-18 months and hopefully weather the storm until the economy turns around.
So what do we get in return? We would ask that these theaters’s work with local children’s groups, inner city programs, after school programs etc. to help young artists get a start in the career. Maybe they would have to allocate a certain amount of days where other theatre companies would be able to use the space for free which would allow for the nurturing of arts groups without a home. I am certain that most would be more than happy to agree to these terms.
When I asked a local theatre owner in Hollywood about the idea they nearly fell over with excitement. “50,000 would pay rent for an entire year as well as the rights to all of our plays and most of our set construction. This would allow us to take the revenue we generate from ticket sales, fundraisers etc and put it towards the next year. I honestly think that something like this would allow us to stay in the black for several years to come.”
Although she also said that she knew it would never happen and that is was kind of like thinking about what you would do with the money if you won the lotto.
The point being is that it’s time for us to start thinking outside of the box and looking for ways to spend this money that will directly affect the communities we live in. I am tired of waiting for the trickle down effect and rewarding these people who put us here in the first place.
It’s sad that so many theatres will have to close this year. The upside is that many will survive and become stronger for it. I was talking to an actor friend about the economy and how it was affecting him and was quite surprised at his answer. “To be honest, actors have never really had any money and are always living on a shoestring budget. We hustle and work day to day. Actually, nothing has really changed for me.” That hit home. It’s the people who have money who are felling this “recession” the most, and those that have nothing are keeping on as always.
My hope is that we continue to find ways to support the arts across our country in this difficult time. It allows us a brief moment to escape from the day-to-day troubles we deal with. It allows us to laugh, cry, love and reflect. It forces us to look at ourselves and our beliefs and interact with those around us. It also has the ability to make us better people.