Arts organizations feel sting of proration

Published 8:10 pm Saturday, February 7, 2009

The news from the Alabama State Council on the Arts was, perhaps, not as bad as expect, but it was bad enough.

Albert Head, executive director of the state arts council, informed local arts organizations of a 10 percent cut that must be made in grants from the Council for FY09 due to proration.

“A cut in the Council’s budge of over $492,000 must be implemented to comply with Governor’s proration directive issued in late December,” Head said in his letter to the organizations.

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Head said the upcoming legislative session will be very difficult and may result in further budget reductions.

Richard Metzger, Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center executive director, said with the state in proration, these are difficult times for the arts and the across the board cuts will make it necessary for all arts organizations to tighten their belts.

“The cuts will certainly have an impact on our budget but I’m an eternal optimist,” he said. “I have great hope for the future of the arts here in Troy and in Pike County. My hope is that the people of our community will continue to support our programs.

“At the Johnson Center for the Arts, we offer outstanding exhibitions that should also attract people from out of town. If we can do that, we can weather the storm.”

However, Metzger said it might become necessary to scale back on promotions surrounding upcoming exhibits and perhaps even cut back some of the planned exhibitions.

“But, hopefully, we’ll be able to continue with the educational programs offered in conjunction with the exhibitions, because art experiences translate into the classroom.”

Metzger said hard times will not diminish the mission of the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important for arts organizations to step up to the plate and do what we can for the people of this community by providing arts opportunities,” he said. “The arts are not the frills of education. The arts translate to all areas of academics. They are the common denominator for art, theater, storytelling, music and dance. They all play an important role in molding well-round young adults.”

Kristi Drinkwater, Troy Arts Council president, said the cut in grant funding will be felt in her organization but, “thankfully” the TAC had an exceptionally good patrons’ drive this season.

“We surpassed our hopes for the patrons’ drive this year on all levels and we were very conservative with our budget,” Drinkwater said. “We could foresee that things were going to be tighter so we put safeguards in our budget to protect us. We may have to be even more conservative in planning for the upcoming season.”

Like the state arts council, the TAC awards grants to local arts organizations and schools. Those grants will likely be affected.

“The state arts council has been very generous in the years past but we don’t depend solely on them for our funding,” Drinkwater said “Contributions and our patrons’ drive are important to our programming but the cuts in state arts council grant funding will make us stick very closely to our budget.”

The TAC will begin contracting for its 2009-10 season in May and Drinkwater said the TAC will have to be more conservative with its programming.

“It’s not just the cost of the performance that we have to consider,” she said. “There’s travel, food and lodging expenses for the performers and that can be very costly. We’ll have to put safeguards in our budget to make sure that we can cover the entire expenses of the programs that we bring to Troy.”

Drinkwater said the upside of the situation is that maybe more people will attend arts programs here at home rather than traveling out of town to shows.

“We have outstanding arts programs right here at home,” she said. “This will be a good opportunity for people to stay hone and enjoy what we have to offer.”

Dinah Kelsey, a member of the Brundidge Historical Society and its storytelling committee, said the Alabama State Council on the Arts has been very generous in grant funding, first, for the historical group’s folklife play, “Come Home, It’s Suppertime,” and then its storytelling events.

“Of course, any time that your funding is cut 10 percent, you feel the pinch,” she said. “But we’ve stayed on a tight budget so that, if a rainy day came, we could weather it. We’ll look closely at what we can do within our budget as far as next year’s Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival and cut where we can and still bring top storytellers to our Festival.”

Kelsey said bringing seasoned Jonesborough storytellers to Pike County is costly and the committee depends a great deal on the support of the state art council.

“We’ve had three storytelling festivals and four other storytelling events,” she said. “We were able to do that because of the support of the state arts council. With a 10 percent cut in grant funding, we’ll have to do some adjusting to our budget and we can do that. But, hopefully, there won’t have to be other cuts because it would really start to hurt all of the organizations that have been so generously funded by the state arts council. “We all appreciate their support. Because of it, we’ve been able to offer outstanding arts programs to people of all ages all across the state.”