Any way you slice it, it’s been a rough year for state arts councils. According to the National Assembly of State Arts Associations (NASAA), states have reduced their funding for arts agencies an average of 7% (14% if you take out Minnesota, which recently enacted a kickass new arts tax that tripled the money available). Many, if not most, states are facing tremendous budget deficits, and it seems you can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a news story about how South Dakota or Michigan or Pennsylvania or wherever is threatening to cut arts funding drastically or zero it out entirely. So we fret and worry or get all up in arms, and but all too often the story disappears and we rarely find out what happened in the end. So as a service to Createquity readers, I’m going to try to aggregate recent stories about state arts funding battles here in one place, so you can be aware of what’s going on in your state and let your friends in other states know what actions they can take to help. Hopefully, this will help us become more informed as a community and empower us to take action collectively to protect state arts funding across the country, instead of fighting a myriad of isolated battles.
I’ve tried to gather the most current information in each of these cases, but it’s quite possible that I’ve missed something. If you can help make the list more complete or up-to-date, please share in the comments.
BATTLES STILL BEING WAGED
Governor Jodi Rell’s reorganization would move Connecticut’s Commission on Culture and Tourism under the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development. Cuts of more than 50% have also been recommended for the Commission under the General Assembly’s proposed budget, which as far as I can tell would not merge the agency with Economic and Community Development. Finally, the Governor is pushing to eliminate line items for arts organizations in the state budget, affecting a number of larger institutions in the state. The Arts Council of Greater New Haven is on top of the developments here.
Another instance of potential elimination of a state arts council through reorganization comes, surprisingly, from a Democrat, Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan. In fact, Republican lawmaker Cameron Brown (who just happens to be running for Secretary of State next year) last week introduced a resolution to block Granholm’s executive order dissolving the Department of History, Arts and Libraries and moving its functions to other departments. (The rather unfortunately-named Michigan Council on Arts and Cultural Affairs, or MCACA, would become part of the Michigan Strategic Fund.) Even if Brown’s resolution succeeds, however, Senate resolutions put forward this year would still abolish the Department and put its functions under the Secretary of State’s office (a solution Granholm does not support either). This after MCACA had its current year’s budget slashed 3.74% unilaterally as part of another executive order in May. ArtServe Michigan has more.
Perhaps the most dramatic story this year has been that of Pennsylvania, where in some versions of the state budget under consideration the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts’s $14 million budget would be eliminated. The ripple effect is already taking a toll on Philadelphia, which has announced that it may have to close its own cultural affairs office (just re-opened last year) if other state funding doesn’t come through, and where the possible elimination of Pennsylvania’s tax credit has forced M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie to Canada. The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has done a great job organizing the resistance, and you can follow the action on Twitter with the hashtags #savePAarts and #PAbudget.
MAJOR CUTS ALREADY IN PLACE
The Arizona Commission on the Arts saw its state appropriation reduced 54%, necessitating an overall budget cut of approximately 42%.
After initially making noises about cutting the Colorado Council for the Arts’s funding in half, Democratic Governor Bill Ritter settled for a 25% decrease for next year. The Council will receive about $300,000 less from the state than in the current year.
The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs will receive $2.8 million in Fiscal Year 2010, less than half of last year’s appropriation and a shocking 94% decline from three years ago. Florida is another state whose lawmakers threatened to zero out arts funding, and only the promise of $1 million in NEA money (which Florida would not have been eligible to receive without a state arts council) saved the division from extinction. Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker has also introduced a bill to repeal Florida’s law mandating that 0.5% of construction costs go to public art; this bill did not come to a vote.
Things were looking pretty good in Barack Obama’s home state when Governor Quinn originally proposed a flat funding level at $15.3 million – but by the time the Legislature was done with the Illinois Arts Council, that level had been cut 51% to $7.8 million. The executive director of the IAC says things don’t look much better for next year either.
The Indiana Arts Commission’s funding was cut by $1 million (20%), cuts that apparently blindsided the agency and forced an emergency session to redo the FY 2010 budget. There has also been a 5% holdback mandated for the current year’s funds.
I can’t figure out what the hell is going on in Louisiana. The back story is that Governor Jindal (remember him from this year’s State of the Union response?) decided to cut a full 83% from Louisiana’s Decentralized Arts Fund and 31% from its Statewide Arts Grants. A firestorm of protest ensued, and the state’s Legislature responded by reinstating the arts funding at 100% of prior levels. However, Jindal threatened to veto the reinstatement, and “political maneuvering has delayed the review of this portion of the budget until it’s too late for the Legislature to override the veto without calling a special session.” This was all as of mid-May, and unfortunately, I can’t find any information about what happened next (the website for the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts, the state’s arts advocacy organization, is disappointingly bereft of information on the conflict and the latest newsletter is more than a year old; the Facebook page is in similar shape). But knowing Jindal, I think it’s reasonably safe to assume that the vetoes went through.
The Maryland State Arts Council sustained an 18% cut for FY10 and also lost 14% of its original FY09 appropriation. And just this month, Governor O’Malley cut another $2 million out of a newly established arts fund that gets its money from a tax on instant bingo machines. Cumulatively, the cuts come to about 30%.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s funding has been reduced by 23.4% for next year, to $9.7 million. Believe it or not, this actually could have been a lot worse – the State Senate Ways & Means Committee initially recommended a cut of 57%.
The Missouri Arts Council actually got $5.6 million withheld out of the current year’s budget as the state sought to close a shortfall in February, an amount exceeding a third of the Council’s state appropriation. For next year, it looks like MAC will face about a 10% reduction (not sure if that’s a reduction based on the original FY09 budget or the revised one).
The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts will have its state appropriation cut 31.7% in FY 2010, precipitating an overall budget cut of about $320,000 from what was already one of the smaller state grantmaking agencies out there.
The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, one of the best-funded agencies in the country, saw its appropriation slashed 25% to $14.4 million. Governor Corzine actually had to circumvent a law to do so, as New Jersey’s arts council is funded by a dedicated hotel-motel occupancy tax that is supposed to self-destruct if the appropriation falls below $16 million. The idea was that this would be a “poison pill” designed to create a strong incentive for keeping arts funding high. I haven’t been able to find confirmation of whether the tax has, in fact, been abolished as a result of the deep cuts.
The Ohio Arts Council’s budget was cut an astounding 47% for FY10-11, to $13.2 million for the two years. The state had already taken back $3.62 million from its original FY08-09 appropriation.
The South Carolina Arts Commission’s troubles started early: by this March, the agency had sustained no fewer than three cuts to its original FY09 appropriation totaling a cumulative 25.9%. The SCAC has been getting an additional $585,000 in “one-time” funding for each of the past three years, and it is not confident about a renewal in FY10.
The Washington Arts Commission lost 26% of its state funding for FY2010. It could have been worse: a bill introduced by a Republican lawmaker in February would have eliminated the Commission’s Art in Public Places program; it seems, however, that the bill did not go anywhere.
BREATHING A SIGH OF RELIEF
South Dakota’s state arts council looked like it was going to get axed earlier in the year by Governor Mike Rounds, but an outpouring of advocacy efforts led to a 0.5% increase in the state tourism tax that allowed (among other things) the arts funding to be reinstated.