Performing Arts and Public Pockets: A Legal Look at Government Support for the Arts

         On Monday, November 13, 2023, the Brooklyn Entertainment and Sports Law Society (BESLS) hosted the Performing Arts and Theater Panel entitled, “Performing Arts and Public Pockets: A Legal Look at Government Support for the Arts.” Among the esteemed panelists were Tom Ferrugia, the Director of Governmental Affairs at the Broadway League; Scott Bartlof, representing theatrical account Robert Fried and Withum Smith and Brown; Ty Jones, the Producing Artistic Director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem and Sarah Street, a founding member of the Pond Theater Company. Brooklyn Law Professor Mark Merriman, a partner in the Entertainment Group at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz, moderated the lively discussion.

        The panel spoke on America’s appetite for funding for the performing arts and how this was seen in the 292-129 bipartisan vote to defeat a measure to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, the federal program providing funding to theatrical organizations nationwide. The panelists discussed the Save Our Stages Act, a pandemic-era federal program, and its extensive yet limited support to performing arts venues and organizations in the wake of closures.

The discussion continued into the critical challenges commercial and nonprofit performing arts organizations face today. Sarah Street provided enlightening information on how, in Ireland, which fosters a very different government relationship to the arts, theatre is seen as a fundamental part of the human experience. She discussed how the country is experimenting with providing support for its artists through programs where, if accepted, artists would receive a weekly salary to focus their attention on working on their art.

The panel shared the sentiment that the legal field could aid the performing arts by educating government officials and those in power on why the arts are an essential part of the community. We are so grateful to our amazing panelists, moderators, and attendees for an incredible Theater and Performing Arts Panel!

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