In 1970, the first day I went to work for NYSCA, the NY State Council on the Arts, my boss, Richard d’Anjou, head of Performing Arts, said, “When you work here you are automatically a bureaucrat. We need your artistic expertise, but here you’re just a bureaucrat, and don’t forget it.”
NYSCA had money to distribute to Theater, Music, Video, and Dance organizations, and the first thing I learned was that it did not give “grants.”
“The state is buying the services of art organizations,” d’Anjou explained, “same as it buys services of accountants and architects.”
The budget for dance came in at 1.1 million dollars. Wow!
There were big troupes, like American Ballet Theater, the NYC Ballet, and the Joffrey Ballet, also artistic greats without much money like Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Alvin Ailey, and promising but penniless new troupes like Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp.
Deciding who got what involved applications and a panel of experts who made recommendations to Council members, which included Dorothy Rodgers, wife of composer, Richard Rodgers, Seymore Knox, a Buffalo millionaire, and the head of the Musicians Union Local 802.
ABT and NYCB each got $150,000, the Joffrey Ballet got $100,000, and Bang!, there went 36% of dance money. In the end, 99 troupes got something, down to a tiny troupe in Queens that did kid shows: Fifty Toes, $500.
But the big troupes were not happy and critic, Clive Barnes, quit the panel saying that $150,000 to ABT was, “...ludicrous! absolutely ludicrous!” and wrote a rebuke saying NYSCA was more interested in “democratic fairness” than helping dance.
I asked Richard d’Anjou, “How much of the money do the big three want?
Matter of factly: “All of it.”
“That would pretty much destroy dance in New York,” I said.
“Not their concern,” he aswered.
Fade out--forty years pass—fade in.
Depending on who you ask, 34% to 42% of the nation’s wealth is now owned by 1% of Americans. How much more of it do they want? All of it.
It explains the antics of a bought-and-paid-for Congress, the Tea Party, owned by the billionaire Koch brothers, anti-tax madness, rantings of radical right talking heads, and a slate of presidential candidates unqualified to run lemonade stands. The string-pullers want all they can get, any way they can get it, and are no more concerned that it would destroy the U.S.A., than American Ballet Theater was concerned about Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp.