Friday, August 3, 2012

Now why exactly did the state just hand Harvard $150,000 to upgrade the ART's lighting?

More cultural funding down the toilet.
Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry at the way this benighted state doles out its support for the arts.

A case i point: is there any fatter cat than Harvard University around, you might ask?  I can't think of one offhand - nevertheless, the state's MassDevelopment agency, under the stewardship of Marty Jones, has just seen fit to hand Harvard's ART $150,000 to upgrade its lighting and projection system.

I guess that's so Diane Paulus will be able to launch her next Broadway-bound money machine  (a reboot of Pippin, btw) with something like precisely the technical resources she can expect on the island of Manhattan (where it will inevitably land, with top ticket prices in the hundreds of dollars).

And thank God!  We were all so worried. I mean it's so irritating having to spend all that extra time in tech, when you could be off striking your next deal with the Gershwin estate!

I do wonder whether the lighting booth at the Loeb is really among the Commonwealth's top funding priorities, though.  I mean, I hadn't noticed that the Loeb's projection systems are noticeably below Boston standards!  But even if they are, I wonder whether other resources might have been available for their upgrade . . .

After all, Harvard is sitting on an endowment that even now is floating, after the economic tragedy of 2008 (which was, ironically enough, brought about in part by so many B-school grads, and the theories they were taught) at around $32 billion.  From which (I note) Harvard drew revenue of $1.2 billion last year.

$1.2 billion (pretty much tax-free, btw - a savings of something like, what, $180 million? - although I know Harvard tosses a few million to Cambridge and Boston as a consolation prize).  That's twice the size of Boston College's entire operating budget, and one-and-half times the size of Northeastern's.  It's a lotta clams.  Indeed, the $150,000 the state handed the A.R.T. is only a little more than one-hundredth of one percent of that total.  Wasn't there room in the budget of the greatest university in the world for a single lighting upgrade?

Apparently not.  So let's put it this way.  Harvard couldn't be bothered spending one-hundredth of one percent of its endowment revenue on this project.  Yet the Commonwealth of Massachusetts somehow thinks it's worth funding anyway.  With your money.

Hmmmm.  I think we just saw the 1% once again feathering its own nest.  I mean, it feels a little bit like MassDevelopment just remodeled Ned and Abby Johnson's TV room.  Only I think the shows are better over at Ned and Abby's place!


  1. Imagine if instead ten of the most promising small theatre companies in Masachusettshad received $15,000 a piece from the state.

  2. Exactly. In fact, let's crank up that old John Lennon record, and sing a few new verses:

    "Imagine there's no Harvard . . .
    It's easy if you try . . .
    No one to bow or scrape to . . .
    And no bad theatre to despise . . ."

    Oh, well. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I hope I'm not the only one. At the same time, the state has always been in the business of handing money over to the wealthy - and it always will be.