Taxpayers fork over $40,000 grant for a film about Howard Jarvis

Howard Jarvis, a spiritual father of today's tea party movement, might have smiled to hear that a documentary film is in the works called “Mad as Hell!: Howard Jarvis and the Birth of the Tax Revolt.”

But “mad as hell” might well have described the California anti-tax campaigner's reaction to the recent news that taxpayers are forking over $40,000 to help pay for it.

The National Endowment for the Humanities last week announced a grant to the film by writer-producer-director Jason Andrew Cohn, whose credits include “Charles and Ray Eames: the Architect and the Painter,” which premiered on the big screen before being shown in PBS’ “American Masters” series.  The federal funding officially goes to the Catticus Corp., a Berkeley-based nonprofit that backs programs for public radio and television. 

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“I knew Howard, and I doubt he would like to see money being put out to make a film, when it’s money taken out of taxpayers’ pockets,” said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Assn., which carries on its namesake's cause.

Jarvis, who died in 1986, led the drive to pass California's Proposition 13 in 1978, setting caps on tax increases that continue to drive the state's political discourse and decision-making. 

“He would say that with all the needs we have, and with the government continuing to press for tax increases, why are we spending on something like this?” Vosburgh added. “His goal in life was to make sure that people had an opportunity to keep the money that they’d earned.”

The grant-making round announced last week by the NEH totaled $33 million, including 16 grants for $2.74 million for educational and scholarly projects by California nonprofit groups.

The NEH is giving $300,000 to a consortium of orchestras headed by the Pacific Symphony to extend the “Music Unwound” national initiative that was launched with a previous $300,0000 NEH grant in 2011.

Shepherded by Pacific Symphony artistic advisor Joseph Horowitz, it enables orchestras to enhance regular concert presentations with multimedia elements, lectures and other extras aimed at giving the audience a more varied, engaging and informative experience. 

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The new grant will include developing a festival called “Charles Ives’ America,” to go with the “Dvorak and America” and “Copland and Mexico” programs from the first phase.

The Louisville Symphony, North Carolina Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic were the Pacific Symphon's partners in the first "Music Unwound" grant. The University of Texas and South Dakota Symphony also have signed on to join them under the new one.

The Pacific Symphony separately has presented its own “Music Unwound” programs at Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, helped by two $500,000 grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2008 and 2012.

The coming 2013-14 season will give the “unwound” treatment to an October concert program exploring Flamenco music and musical interpretations of the poetry of Federico Garcia Llorca, a January 2014 look at Dmitri Shostakovich’s musical responses to Stalinism, and, in June 2014, an examination of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and its infiltration of pop culture.

The NEH also granted $300,000 to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and UC Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive, to equip the museum's new photography storage facility and provide a cold storage unit for the film archive.


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