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National Conference Held to Find Ways of Helping Artists

May 5, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Representatives from federal, state and local arts organizations will join with officials from corporations and foundations in a three-day conference to discuss ways of assisting American artists.

The conference, which starts Tuesday at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk, N.Y., will also attract representatives from Wales, Finland, West Germany, England, Canada and Puerto Rico.

″Too often we in the arts funding community don’t focus on individual artists and their particular institutions,″ said Frank Hodsoll, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, in a telephone interview. ″It’s somewhat sad to note that in the last decade there has been a decline of 37 percent in terms of dollars earned in the arts labor force.″

Financial support for the arts is generated from many sectors, he said, with most funding - 85 percent - orginating from individuals. Corporations, the fastest growing support group, accounts for 10 percent and foundations, 5 percent.

″There are individuals out there who are extraordinarily generous,″ Hodsoll said. ″That hasn’t declined; it’s increased.

″As one goes out across the country, there’s more to support. Opera was relatively confined years ago to such companies as the Metropolitan Opera. Now there are hundreds of opera companies. There was no regional theater to speak of 20 years or so ago. And dance was almost exclusively in New York. Now there are dance companies all over the place.″

The vast amount of funding for these institutions, he said, comes from the community in which the arts institution exists. ″That’s natural,″ said Hodsoll, ″because the people who live there are proud of it and enjoy the benefits of that group or individual.″

The conference is being underwritten by grants from the NEA, the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Philip Morris, Inc., the British Council, the Dayton Hudson Foundation and NYNEX Corp.

It is sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, which will award $1.08 million in fellowships to 216 New York State artists at a ceremony on Thursday, May 8.

The Foundation is a non-profit group funded primarily by the New York State Council on the Arts. It sponsors such enterprises as an artists in residence program, in which artists receive $5,000 in exchange for participating in a public service activity, such as school, and a revolving loan program.

″Arts organizations, like any other business, have major cash flow problems,″ said Theodore Berger, executive director of the Foundation, in describing the loan program. ″Small and middle-sized organizations should have a way of dealing with cash problems. Many can’t afford to go to banks nor do they necessarily have the board composition for a bank to deal with them.″

Since its inception in 1971, over $18 million has been given out under the program, Berger said, adding that the Foundation has had a ″99.99 percent″ success with repayment. ″The percentage of default is less than any bank,″ he said. ″It’s been phenomenal. It speaks highly of financial integrity.″

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