Save Public Funding for the Arts

Arts Council to testify Thursday
August 20, 2008, 7:35 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Arts Council of Indianapolis will give its public testimony on the budget to the Parks and Recreation Committee on Thursday, Aug. 21 at 5 p.m. in Room 260 at the City County Building.  The room has been pretty full in previous years, so come early if you want to come show your support for ongoing public funding for the arts.

A couple of Councilors have told me recently that they value the arts and are looking for creative solutions in order to provide city support for the arts and arts programs – financial as well as in-kind.  If you can, please come to the committee hearing, as well as the public budget hearing on Sept. 8, to share your own story with them about the value of arts education and the impact the arts has on Indianapolis’ quality of life and economic development.


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Hoosiers For Fair Taxation reports today that $739,000 of the arts budget went directly into the coffers of arts chair, Dan Appel’s, clients. Preference was given to insurance clients of Gregory & Appel over other organizations in the city with acute funding needs. Please see HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAXATION website for all the details.

Comment by Melyssa

Arts Funding: Filling in the blanks

I have supported the arts in Indianapolis and been involved in the “scene” for 22 years. My home is stuffed with my 20 year collection of local art. In 2004, I self-funded and produced a national juried art ball that drew 1000 guests from both coasts, paid a lot of people, drew 100 volunteers, and made a small profit. I did it without public funding. I know what I’m talking about.

The arts council funding is not going to the causes that the “save indy arts” crowd would have you believe.

Did our city council approve art funding in the first place so that institutions that already run well into the black get the lions’ share of taxpayers’ dollars that we often borrow from the bond bank?

I hope not!

Please read blog entires for August 21st on website. Here you can read how the arts council chairman (Don Appel) took good care of his top insurance clients of Gregory and Appel to the tune of more than $700,000 in arts grants (that we know about).

You will also learn that the woman behind the “save indy arts” hysteria lives in Hamilton county and for years has made her PR/communications living off the very rich institutions who receive most of the arts council funding. Individuals who do not live in Marion county, by law, have no voice in how our money is spent. She lives off Marion county taxpayer funds…no wonder she’s upset! Do not accept her testimony at council meetings. You only represent Marion county taxpayers.

Our city did not see a reduction in crime because of arts funding. Our city did not see higher graduation rates because of arts funding. In fact, last I checked, IPS is the poorest performing school system next to Detroit…and Detroit’s mayor is in jail!

What we are seeing is insiders feeding at the trough at the taxpayers’ expense at a time when our city is in dire financial shape. Now is NOT the time for our leadership to loose its political will to cut spending for all non-essential services.

City councilors and the mayor need not fear support from the public on cutting arts funding. Hoosiers For Fair Taxation and our band of activists will be at the September 9th city council meeting and plan to testify and distribute literature so the public can see how they are being deceived by the arts council.

This information is currently being distributed to the media by numerous taxpayers who are gravely concerned about the fiscal health of our city. Unfortunately, we are not full time communications specialists or journalists. We are real people with real jobs working hard to keep up with inflation and staggering tax bills.

For those of you who told taxpayers that you are accountable to responsible spending, now is the time to own your words. Now is the time to stand beside Councilor Scales and show that you care about the dire financial situation faced by our city enough to do something about it.

Mayor Ballard needs to know that we expect him to keep his promises to cut the arts funding. And that we do not expect him to bend because Lisa Sirkin, a PR/communications specialist profiting from the arts starts hysteria via internet social media websites, her personal email list, and the save indy arts website.

There is just one woman (that I know of) working in the arts in the parks department that earns her keep. Her name is Robin Williams and she works in Garfield Park. She is creative, dedicated, passionate, and my sources tell me that the projects she produces pay for themselves. In otherwords, she knows how to fundraise. She also lives close to the people she serves and not out of the county like so many of Indy’s arts insiders.

Conversely, a fundraiser reported on the IRS statement the arts council put on in 2006, lost $38,000! How on earth do you lose $38,000 putting on a fundraiser if you care about the public’s money?

We need the grownups to step in now and put a stop to spending money we don’t have. And we’re counting on our city council and Mayor Ballard to make responsible choices for the people and our children’s fiscal future.

Melyssa Donaghy, editor/activist

Comment by Melyssa

There is no way to begin to address all of the inaccuracies and lies in your posts. I’ll just give one specific example: The supposed $38,000 “loss” on an Indy Arts Council fundraiser. Melyssa – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, a CPA, or even an Arts Council employee to find the truth behind this.

I, too, looked up the ’06 tax return that you posted on your blog. If you look on the very same line where that $38,000 figure is located you’ll see a $90,000 entry of corporate sponsorships taken in for that event that, by the way the IRS requires organizations to report, is not included in that event’s bottom line. Those contributions are counted elsewhere on the return. So, on that very same line that you neglected to report on accurately: you start with some $21k in ticket sales, add the $90k in corporate sponsorships and you get $111,000. Now subtract the expenses of $60k and the Indy Arts Council made a profit of $51k.

Not quite the picture that you painted, is it?

And there we are: I have no doubt that if one were to look closely at all of your “reporting” we would find the very same lies time after time. It is a shame you aren’t really working for the common good. I have a feeling that you are working out some personal vendettas.

You’ll come back with even more lies, libelous statements, and fabrications I have no doubt. This money allocated to the arts does good in the community. The arts organizations big and small do good in the community. The Indy Arts Council does good in the community.

All you are championing right now is the return to Indiana NO place. As a fellow tax payer, I am embarrassed that people outside the city are reading your hate and your lies. The stunts you are pulling are not helping. Fight to end hunger. Fight for our homeless. Fight to help get our youth off the streets and to stop killing each other. Don’t fight programs and organizations that are doing good for our citizens and for people who are coming to Indianapolis.

Comment by Double Dare

“Double Dare”, you are a COWARD with your opinions. What is your name and address? Why do you hide behind an anonymous internet moniker? My opinion has weight. I am Melyssa Ann Donaghy. I live at 4169 Central Avenue and I put my name and my reputation on everything I say. Why can’t you?

Comment by Melyssa

The reality is you state yourself on your own blog that you applied, or took steps to apply, for an ACI grant…quite willing then to suck at the tit of government funding, but you weren’t offered the nipple.
Now ACI grants are wasteful.
It’s hard to take someone who’s working out grudges and envy seriously.
It’s even harder to assign gravitas when that person conveniently reinvented herself as a crusader when a previous incarnation got them into a legal jam.
And no one, NO ONE, owes you their name or address. You might call them cowardly, but the potential bullying and slander — this IS the Internet — is more than schoolyard, it’s stalking.

Comment by Triple Dare

Triple Dare…NAME PLEASE? Just call yourself a coward.

Comment by Melyssa

Thank you Dare for your measured replies to Melyssa. True colors do come out it seems.

For such a small investment, the city provides a leadership role in pointing towards areas businesses and individuals can follow. By budgeting about $1 per person towards the arts, we get a return of almost half a billion dollars. It’s amazing to realize the arts generate more profit in Indianapolis than the professional sports. I’ve never applied for a grant, but I’ve seen the benefits to the small, unheard of organizations and individuals who have benefited greatly from a few timely dollars.

Support local arts!

Comment by ArtistDan

Dan? I know you are an artist and not an economist, so I’m going to make it simple.

Marion county population = 734,174
$1 per person = $734,174
1/2 billion = 500,000

According to your argument Marion county receives a NET LOSS of 234,174 for its $1 per person investment.

You can get an ROI on the arts starting with an investment of zero dollars. I know, I did it when I produced a large national juried art ball in 2004. It attracted international art submissions and guests who came from both coasts. Attendance was about 1000 guests. I received absolutely zero public funding.

Lisa Sirkin and her company, Gracie Communications, started this web blog. Both Lisa and her company reside in Hamilton county.

Lisa Sirkin does not pay Marion county taxes, she pays Hamilton county taxes.

However, Lisa Sirkin does get paid by the big well funded arts institutions who are getting Marion county tax dollars.

Last I checked, Lisa Sirkin has absolutely no say in what happens in Marion county government. If she wants to have a say in our city, I suggest she pack up and move here.

You don’t see me in Hamilton county city council meetings or launching blogs trying to tell Hamilton county how to spend its tax revenue, do you?

Comment by Melyssa


If you are going to talk down to the other people on this site, at least get your math right.

1/2 billion = $500,000,000

Do the subtraction and you’ll see that Dan is pretty much right on with his math. Stop belittling people just because you disagree with their position.

Your attempts to discredit this blog because of where I live are just a distraction from the real issue. You are right when you say that I cannot testify on this matter. I’ve not done so nor do I plan to. What I have done is provide a forum for others to share their thoughts about the arts and city funding and support for it. I’ve posted all comments (unlike on your blog) and I have shared all those comments appropriately.

Contrary to the other rumors you have attempted to start, I am not getting paid for this blog.

Comment by Lisa Sirkin

Seems Miss Ann isn’t quite done with humiliation and name-calling…it’s just a different venue. Few comment on her conspiracy theory Blog, so she comes here and expects people to submit.
So those outside Marion County have no right to express an opinion, even though Indianapolis benefits from spent $$ and Arts support?
Her tenacity and math skills give us the giggles. Let’s hope she doesn’t handle estimates for ANGIE.

Comment by Anonymous

Hey Lisa…sorry about that, you are right on the math.

Lisa, I never indicated you are getting paid for this blog. I flat out stated the facts. You listed clients on Gracie Communications site are often the very same big institutions that are not in need of funding. The same institutions that in 2006 at least half of our arts funding.

Comment by Melyssa

Lisa compare the 2006 IRS statement from the arts council. Who are the biggest recipients of Marion county taxpayers’ funding?

Compare those names to your published list of clients. See any similarities?

While I never said that you are directly paid to start this blog, you are contracted by these organizations who pay you for their services, correct?

And while you know better than to try to speak to our council about its money, you are essentially doing the same thing by starting this blog. And quite frankly, you are not going to get away with it.

Don’t forget Bart.

Comment by Melyssa

…I produced a large national juried art ball in 2004. It attracted international art submissions and guests who came from both coasts. Attendance was about 1000 guests. I received absolutely zero public funding…”
Tell us more about this event, those attending and judging, its impact on the city, what as an organizer you felt constituted art and what grants you did apply for but were unable to obtain. Thanks.

Comment by Anonymous

Art Jurors:
David Crowe, BFA, Ball State
Frédéric Allamel, PhD Sorbonne Paris
Jennifer Kaye, owner LAMP Fine Art

How could I possibly account for how much was spent? I know that a lot of rooms were booked at the Hilton Gardens where I arranged for discounts. I also know the venue’s cash bar ran out of vodka. And I know I gave $1000 in art prizes, hired two bands, contracted sound and lighting techs, bought advertising, printing, and many other expenses.

A few people flew here from out of state. Many came from around the state. I assume they ate in restaurants. Based on advance ticket sales and door sales that night, we had about 1000 in attendance (which included 100 volunteers).

The project received good critical press in both NUVO and Intake.

I personally backed the project with my own money. But quite honestly, I never had to spend my money other than the first $10 when I bought the domain name.

I raised the money by advance sale tickets and sponsorships.

Anyone who loves the arts to whine about “saving it” should be doing the same thing I did for our community. Get off your butt and MAKE it happen if you care so much.

I learned since then. I learned I can accomplish big things. I’ve learned the arts council snubs good people. I learned they hurt artists that aren’t let into their “clique”. I’ve also learned that the government spends a lot of our money they don’t need to spend.

I learned I worked harder without getting that $5,000 which probably would have let me slack a little.

I made successful art happen and gave $1000 to artists without a drop of city money. Why can’t the rest of these arts supporters do that too? Why force taxpayers to fund what they can do for themselves?

The real cultural arts in this town has nothing to do with the arts council. It has everything to do with the WILL of the people to put art in their lives and the lives of others.

Comment by Melyssa

As Melyssa wrote, “…The real cultural arts in this town has nothing to do with the arts council. It has everything to do with the WILL of the people to put art in their lives and the lives of others.”

The will of the people created the Arts Council of Indianapolis when artists of multiple disciplines, politicians, business leaders, and citizens who realized the importance of a focused arts organization got together for the first time in 1987.

Their foresight provided the impetus for the growth of theaters, Mass. Ave., Fountain Square, Harrison Center, The Stutz Bldg., and on and on. The individuals who opened galleries and invested their lives didn’t rely on grants, but they did follow the lead of the city. People need to know their efforts will be worthwhile. There are lots of people who do “make it happen.” But making things happen in a vacuum is suffocating. The city and the taxpayers who have been saying “support the arts” know a breath of fresh air can nurture a garden.

Because of this tax issue and how I’ve referred to 1987, I’ve put together a little photo history of what happens when artists get together. You’re invited to go to


Comment by ArtistDan

Dan, you have a lot to learn about politics.

Comment by Melyssa

I’m saddened, Melyssa, that you would presume to know what I need to learn. Judging from some of your earlier comments here and in other blogs, I am glad you must be content to be a blogger and an observer of politics. If you’d like to create a separate discussion about the inside world of politicking in Indiana, please let me know, and I’d be glad to contribute.

Comment by ArtistDan

Oh Melyssa,

i do not like you
you act like an economic guru
you’re more stiff than a statue
listen,artistdans words have value
that you just can’t see through
this isnt about what money can do
it’s a culutre were trying to rescue
we need to support the artistic venue
try to see it in a different view,
where indiana is headed to
i want my mayor to know this is an issue.
you know it’s wrong- why argue?
so stop hating, its more painful than a tatoo
you got to know where were coming through
ballard with the money he withdrew-
who’s going to save the arts? who? WHO?!


Comment by Greg Ballard

I like Greg’s poem.
Did anyone go to the committee meeting and hear the final decision?
I’m just able to see this site; the original email got spam filtered 😦

Comment by Onye

“I hope you all will cut me some slack as I am not paid, am not a journalist, and am a volunteer doing my best to help my community.”
So, Melyssa, then your claim to credibility, exposes and dissemination of fact is…?

Comment by Anonymous

Heads up.
Carefully read anything kneejerk Miss Ann assembles or distributes as “facts”.
After her idiotic math error on here last week…retracting slander that the Arts Council had “paid someone off” with a grant…admits she’s no journalist, yet occasionally pretends to be a hard-hitting fact-finder…she doesn’t even proofread her blog headlines.
She’ll fix it fast enough when she reads this.
But put your name on it and you own it, M.

Comment by Anonymous

I hold down a full time 100% commission job, countless volunteer commitments, and a good-sized home with tripled property taxes.

Sorry, that I don’t have a staff of editors paid on the taxpayer dime to make sure I never miss a typo or omission of a zero.

However, I am STILL the only person I know, who on the record, has volunteered time to help the city continue to advance the arts in Indianapolis during this budget cut.

Comment by Melyssa

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