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Friday, May 11, 2012

To Bill Maher

I am a Democrat.

This is one of the charities of my choice.
(by the way it houses the LA Philharmonic not the LA Symphony)

This is another.

And here is another.

One more.

In your latest show (please everyone read the transcript of episode 247!!!) you trash charitable giving to the arts and argue that gifts to the arts should not be tax deductible. But modern civilization relies upon the gifts of its people to provide beauty and promise to everyone.  I support that calling.  As a dancer from just about birth, I have been privileged enough to study dance with greats like Bill T. Jones, Betty Jones of Jose Limon, Violette Verdy, Patricia McBride (one of the great Balanchine dancers and legacy teachers), Merce Cunningham, and the list goes on.  I have done these things as a student.  I remember making $150 a week, living in New York City as a nanny and spending every cent I had on my dance education.

I also attended Davidson Fine Arts School in Augusta, GA.  Davidson is an award winning public magnet school that introduced me to all genres of the arts.  There I studied Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Tennessee Williams, Sophocles, Thoreau (on whom I wrote my college entrance essay).  It is a magnet school available to any student in Richmond County that shows an inkling of talent and dedication to the discipline of learning an art form.

I was the Executive Director for the Augusta Ballet for three years in Augusta, GA.  We tried to rely on performance tickets sales only, but that is surely impossible.  Watching the decline of the National Endowment for the Arts during my tenure as Director of Development for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company was not only sad for me as a taxpayer but also devastating as an artist.  I can only write that without the tax deduction for charitable donations, our country will be without ballet, without art museums, without theater, without Mozart, as you pointed out.  And any research study that is worth its salt out there confirms that all of these things only enhance the learning and development of our children.  The children that we want to grow up to help other children with disease, without homes, with horrible living conditions that could only be imagined with empathy, with a spirit enlightened by the arts.

You are wrong Mr. Maher.  Terribly terribly wrong.  What is great about this country, that I love and admire so very much, is that we support and lift up organizations that would die and become a withered hand without the support of its people.  And for peanuts we support the most inventive and vibrant arts communities in the world. In a fifteen trillion dollar economy, Americans give just seventeen billion dollars a year to the arts, so the tax deduction on these gifts costs the government just $5bn a year. For $5bn of lost tax revenue we get the world's greatest symphonies, dance companies, and art museums, supporting the most dynamic new artists on the planet. And though you may think that you help our country and our world to persuade people not to give to these institutions, you are indeed bringing down society with these barbaric ideas.

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