The Fund for the Arts will kick off its annual fundraising campaign Tuesday. As reported on WFPL, the campaign begins at a time when many arts organizations are suffering. Fund CEO Allan Cowen says the organizations may need to rethink their size, though the fund will continue to support organizations as best it can. At one point in our interview, Cowen said if there were more money available to raise, the fund would likely have raised it.

The Louisville Orchestra’s musicians (Keep Louisville Symphonic) are not pleased with the Fund for the Arts. Kim Tichenor says the fund is neglecting its duties and took a swipe at Cowen’s salary, reported at more than $300 thousand (Cowen defends himself in the WFPL story). Tichenor also says Saturday’s Keep Louisville Symphonic concert raised $50 thousand.

See below for excerpts from the musicians’ statement:

The Fund, whose mission statement commits it to make Louisville the “preeminent regional arts center in the United States,” is starting its public campaign after the Louisville Orchestra sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and with other major performing arts groups facing severe financial peril.

In the wake of months of financial uncertainty for Louisville’s flagship arts organization, the Louisville Orchestra, the Fund is being questioned for funding priorities that may have exacerbated the orchestra’s financial woes, including the Fund’s paying attorneys to file the bankruptcy petition seeking to throw out the musicians’ contract.

It’s getting increasingly difficult to reconcile the Fund’s claims that it has stimulated the nation’s highest per-capita arts giving with the realization that most of the arts groups are experiencing frightening financial crises, said Kim Tichenor, chair of the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Committee. She puts it very bluntly: “If Mr. Cowen says the Fund for the Arts has bailed out the Louisville Orchestra,” she said, “he has to acknowledge that the Fund also bored the holes in the orchestra’s boat that have almost submerged the institution.”

While the Fund gives the orchestra over $1 million a year in direct appropriations, that amount has stayed virtually stable over the last 15 years. During that time, citizens’ support to the Fund doubled. In 1995, when the Fund collected $4.8 million, the orchestra received $1 million. By 2008, when the Fund collected $9.1 million, the orchestra’s appropriation from that vastly larger pool had only climbed to $1.2 million, $740,000 below what it would have been if the orchestra has received the same proportion of the community’s giving as it had in 1995.

Tichenor suggests the Fund has neglected its priorities. While the number of area arts groups and programs for which it provides financing, facilities and administrative support has climbed to 27, the Fund and its sister organization, FFTA Properties, Inc., has also become a real estate magnate. It owns and manages ArtSpace, a mixed-use development that includes the Brown Theatre, as well as a non-profit business incubator, arts administrative offices, classrooms, meeting spaces, a rehearsal hall and costume shop and an adjacent conference center. In 1998, in a separate campaign, the Fund raised over $4 million to restore the Brown Theatre, which had been deeded to the Fund. The Fund’s own Main Street Building cost $900,000 to buy and renovate.

“Each of those projects may be worthwhile,” Tichenor said, “but they have to be measured in how they deflect the community’s resources into subsidiary projects, and misallocate what citizens think they are supporting when they give to the Fund for the Arts.”

Additionally, the salary for Fund for the Arts president and CEO Allan Cowen has become increasingly contentious as the Louisville Orchestra musicians have been asked to take pay cuts that would result in their annual base salaries being under $29,000. Meanwhile, according to required federal reporting forms, Cowen in 2008 received total compensation of $346,000 for an organization that raised $9.7 million. In comparison, the president and CEO of Louisville’s Metro United Way was paid $196,000 in 2008 to raise and administer $29 million.

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