Continuing with my story from HERE...(and incorporating a few paragraphs from this earlier but incomplete telling)
Finally, after a year of receiving stimulus fund notices for non-profits only, in the fall of 2009, I received an email from the Maine Arts Commission about a competition for small businesses for what I took to be, a modest grant for the sum of 30000.00 from an "anonymous source". In a moment of hopeful delusions, I imagined that the Maine Arts Commission had come to its senses and realized that they needed to support the private sector.
The competition was called an "elevator pitch competition" which means a pitch delivered in five minutes. Even the written answers to questions on the application were required to be answered in a minimal number of words, brevity being stressed as being so important that if your couldn't explain a business idea in five minutes, then one's business idea is simply not worthy. So important was brevity that at no time during the application process was one required to authenticate any information- or at least that is the only explanation that I can think of for such a glaring omission
The competition was presented by a large panel of Maine's economic development movers and shakers
The introductory speaker was Jayme Okma Lee of what was then called The Small Enterprise Growth Fund- today known as the Maine Venture Fund.. Ms Lee spoke about how thrilled she was to have a competitor doing a film and another doing something else equally glamorous- perhaps it was the Soho Grand type hotel that a group of competitors wanted to establish in Portland. I saw this as evidence of a fundamental disconnect to the audience filled with many Main street business competitors.
My presentation had to do with financing new molds made for our ceramic line of designs which have maintained their marketability since the fifties. At the time there was another slip cast production in Maine which was wanting to expand. Our business would help that company to expand and their expansion would help us to continue as an American made ceramic product, outsourcing our production to another Maine company. This would be a start for my vision of a Great American Ceramic Designer Craftsmen Network.
We had five minutes to make our presentation. I was presenting to Mr John Burns, director of the Small Enterprise Growth Fund (Now called The Maine Venture Fund) - a likable man. I was quite surprised when Mr Burn's response was an enthusiastic.”Excellent !' and even more surprised by his next question, which was could I say more about the network. I couldn't imagine how I could say anything of value in the half a minute which must by now be the remaining time. In retrospect I realize that he was fishing for one simple sentence “ For an exit strategy, we will sell the network” I cannot imagine why anyone would make such a promise in exchange for an investment of $30000.00 not even enough to do a complete mold project of Andersen Studio's inventory of designs, - a size that seems appropriate as a grant or a loan but pitiful low balling for an investment deal in which one promises to sell the business to “anonymous” investors.
When I returned to the location where I thought the semi-finalists were to be announced, I learned that the results had already been announced at some point during the ballet. This was astounding to me. Why would the judges assume that after giving their presentation, the contestants are all going to want to watch a ballet, which by the- way meant another $20.00 ticket price? Apparently the judges felt they could design it all- just dictate the decisions of the participants, as if we were students required to attend classes to get a degree.- Yet another instance of disconnection from reality.
Previously, as I had watched the promotion for that Juice Conference unfold in the email news letters delivered by The Maine Arts Commission, I had witnessed that at first it was promoted as an an event for the elite of elite of the movers and shakers in Maine, After a while it came to be promoted as an event that all kinds of people might enjoy and sought the participation of the general public but it was an expensive event with a hefty fee for the entire weekend.
At first there were no separate admissions for separate events, the assumption being that the entire public would want to attend all the events, As the date drew nearer, the Maine Arts Commission offered a reduced fee to those participating in the competition- and so we already had to pay once to compete and supposedly again to find out who made it to the semi-finals, while obediently attending the ballet!
Charging fees for just about anything and everything is a common practice in the non-profit circuit, case in point being the Maine Crafts Association which partnered with the Maine Turnpike Authority to produce a retail store of Maine Crafts on the Maine Turnpike. The MCA sent out a schedule where in craft makers could present their merchandise. This all took place during one of the iciest and coldest winters in recent Maine history. At the time I had been looking at legitimate juried shows and was familiar with the standard jury fee. I was also aware that it was common practice to submit images of one's work on line.
|This is the medium sized bowl in our Brown tree Salad Bowl Series|
|The Andersen Sandpiper|
Andersen Studio has been wholesaling for over half a century. Our Large Salad Bowl with the brown tree motif was the number one seller at The America House, which once existed across the street from the Museum of Modern Art In New York City. Our sandpiper was a number one seller at a certain well known government gift catalog, that I am told I am not supposed to mention- so I won't . We are currently working on a reorder of our Small Western Mountain Bluebird for the same catalog- which means many seconds available at our own retail store and on line at www.andersenstudio.com
|Small Western Mountain Blluebird|
I asked the phone receptionist at the MCA why MCA was charging a retail store jury fee to vendors. She told me that it was because the MCA exists to serve the public good- the public that they are dedicated to serving being synonymous with the ones they are exploiting .
It is not for the Maine government nor non-profit organizations to recognize success achieved in the free enterprise system, which takes us back to this justification for the existence of the National Foundation For The Arts:
Robert Brustein--"It was never the function of the Endowment to subsidize popular taste, because the cultural demands of the democratic majority were thought to be adequately represented by the market--by Broadway shows, best-selling books, platinum records, Hollywood movies, by mass art and popular culture. No, the Endowment was designed as a counter-market strategy, in the hope that by subsidizing cultural offerings at affordable prices the works of serious art could become available to those normally excluded by income or education.
My personal critique of Robert Brustein view is that it is dubious propaganda justifying a system of indoctrination of the values of a wealthier class imposed on the common folk. It is true that a greater amount of money to invest in a work of art can result in a richer and more exquisite work of art but not that education is required to appreciate it if it is a work of art that speaks directly to the viewer. Education is required in support of an academic culture of the sort that creates art reviews that read like a word salad which no one can understand but no one is supposed to say so since it is supposed to be so far above the heads of common folk that that is why it is difficult to understand- and heaven forbid one should admit it makes no sense and thereby reveal one's self to be just one of the commoners.
There is also a political agenda hidden in Mr Brustein's convoluted line of reasoning. The free market place is fundamentally part and parcel of the American political philosophy, it is the natural evolution of a philosophy based in all men being created equal. Redistribution of wealth, on the other hand is part and parcel of Marxism and other totalitarian systems where the state centrally controls all. The NFA is more Marxist than it is American and so it is any wonder that the justification for the NFA incorporates a denigrating attitude toward the free market- suitable only for "commoners"- which takes us all the way back to what the colonists rebelled against in the first place! The very idea of a centrally managed economy - or centrally managed arts (indoctrination) is rooted in the concept of nobility. In fact the justification for instituting such central management over the free people of Maine is writ as "for the public good", which is noble indeed- or at least rhetorically so, if merely arrogance in practice.
And so once again- I did not get through my story, and so will continue it once more in the next post. I have writer's block about telling this story - a block which manifests as all sorts of other stories that cry to be told. It's been five years now and still the story awaits its own telling.