Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Playing the Starving Artist Role to Grab Our Tax Dollars; The Real Financial Story Behind the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Inc.

On Monday, Ogden on Politics examined the financial picture of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., a non-profit corporation which claims to promote the city in order to secure a million dollar annual subsidy from our city leaders. The examination of the IDI's 2007 tax return shows instead an organization which bestows lavish salaries on their corporate officers and workers, as well as the fact that the organization has several million dollars stashed away in investments.

Today Ogden on Politics turns to another non-profit corporation, which always has its hand out asking for the money from our city government. According to the organization's website
The Arts Council of Indianapolis, Inc. is a not-for-profit local arts agency serving central Indiana. Our mission is to advance and promote the arts through funding, advocacy, business, artistic and technical assistance, public and private support, and technology
The Arts Council also has a website for "stakeholders."

On their 2007 return, the Arts Council shows that they received a grant of $738,500 from the Capital Improvement Board and $1,450,500 from the Parks Department. Total government contributions are listed on Form 990 as $3,082.284, which appears to be about 2/3 of the organization's revenue in 2007.

Indianapolis artists might be starving but the organization's employees funded by our tax dollars to promote the arts are not. According to the 2007 return the President and the organization's top five paid employees make the following.
  • President and CEO of the Arts Council, Greg Charleston pulls in over $170,000
  • Janet Boston, Director of Marketing, makes over $84,000
  • Mike Prusa, Artsgarden Director, earns nearly $70,000
  • David Lawrence, Vice President, makes over $107,000
  • Mindy Taylor-Ross makes over $86,000
  • Shannon Linker, Director of Artist Services, has income totalling over $62,000
According to its website the Arts Council employs 19 individuals. The 2007 return shows the organization paying out salaries and benefits of nearly a million dollars a year.

Some of the names of the Arts Council's Board of Directors should ring a bell: Shawn Mulholland, Erik Johnson, James Birge, Bryce Bennett, Dan Appel, Dennis Bassett, Valerie Brennan, Diana M. Brenner, Greg Fehribach, Michelle Griffith, Dr. Vasiliki Keramida, Quay Kester, W. Tobin McClamroch, David Resnick Krista Skidmore, Brian Sullivan, Sylvia Trotter, Susan Williams, Greg Charleston, President.

Board of Advisors are: Vaughn Hickman, Stan Hurt, Yvonne Shaheen, Chair - Debbie Simon, and Mark Varnau

Okay, I have to ask an obvious question. Does anyone in the city look at these non-profits before handing them millions of taxpayer dollars?


jabberdoodle said...

Thanks for getting all this information out in the open. It should, indeed, be required reading at budget time. I will be interested to see if the Councillors cherry pick the salary information when it comes to a grant recipient they do not care for and ignore the salary information for recipients they protect.

The budget public hearing process usually begins in August - so perhaps you can republish a summary of this type of information about then???

Mely's Rugs said...

Meanwhile our local artists struggle. I know I'm buying work from one of them and it's helping to keep her afloat.

We need to get rid of the arts council. There are artists who agree.

Mely's Rugs said...

HFFT picked apart the 2006 statement (with some help from a patriot) and learned that the biggest grant recipients were IMA, Eiteljorg, and Childrens Museum.

Each of those organizations was flush with cash.

The one thing they had in common?

Each organization was one of the largest clients of property casualty insurance company, Gregory & Appel Insurance.

And Dan Appel, company president, just happened to chairman of the board for the Arts Council.

It would not surprise me if the museum's insurance premium payments matched the grants they received.


Shorebreak said...

Milissa - that's a potentail violation of federal RICO statutes. Your information should be forwarded to investigators. Make sure that you CC multiple media sources when you submit your material.

Paul K. Ogden said...


The debate has always been focused on whether we should be funding the arts. People's opinions about that are mixed. I think if we are going to do something like this, we should be assured our taxpayer money isn't wasted on inflated salaries. The Arts Council has 19 full-time employees? Is that really necessary.

jabberdoodle said...

Paul - I know well that the 'debate' is on arts funding. Meanwhile IDI skates without any objection. The library gets beat up every year, while I've not seen the CIB even questioned in depth.

My point is that it is all taxpayers' money and these salaries should be considered for all of the grantees, not just those favorite whipping posts of certain Councillors.


Also, check to see how many of those arts council folks are living in Marion County.

From what I hear, you never really see them at the city's art openings either.

THey should be made to WORK at art openings for the kind of bucks they pull from our pockets!

Citizen Kane said...

Everyone in the city (who pay attention to anything) know about it and are unhappy. But these decisions are made by the Mayor, Council and their sycophants. Dissenting voices are not permitted and if dissent is provided, the dissenters just don't get invited to any more meetings. So, mostly people smile and go along with it and issue the normal platitudes and propaganda.