Arts groups prep for cuts

Published 9:01 am Friday, January 13, 2012

Representatives of arts organizations from around the state packed the Octagon Theater at the Alabama Shakespeare Theater in Montgomery this week in a “call to action” by the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

The state arts council’s FY12 budget was cut 25 percent in the last legislative session resulting in a reduction of more than $1 million.
Al Head, Alabama State Council on the Arts executive director, said most ASCA grantees felt that reduction in significant ways through grant funding in one form or another.

“If you are an observer of trends, you know that appropriations for the arts in Alabama have been going down for the past four years, a loss of $2.4 million since the high-water mark in FY08 when the state funding to the Council was $5.8 million,” Head said. “Nationally, extreme cuts to the arts have been taking place in many states with total elimination being proposed in some cases.

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“With the upcoming legislative session in Alabama starting Feb. 7, the arts community needs to become more involved in the ‘process.’”
With that in mind, Head said the Council set January 11 as a date for the gathering of ASCA grantees and those concerned with the health of the arts in Alabama.

The focus of the Wednesday meeting was mainly on the upcoming legislative session and the sharing of information and tools needed to enhance making the case for public support for the arts.

State Treasurer Young Boozer told the gathering of ASCA grantees that there are signs that the economy is starting to get better, but it will get better slowly.

“FY13 will be a difficult budget year,” he said.

“The state’s general fund will continue to struggle. So you still need to hunker down. Go find the money that means survival of your programs. Play defense. Give yourself a chance.”

Boozer said often local governments have more money than the state and are possible financial resources for arts organizations.
“People give to people, not to causes,” he said. “Never discount the value of a letter on the desk of an elected official. Ninety percent of successful fundraising is just showing up.”

Head told the ASCA grantees that it is highly unlikely that the Legislature will increase funding to the Council.

“There could be some level of decrease,” he said. “I would be happy if our funding remained level.”

However, Head said that if the Legislature “restored” half of what was lost last year, that would mean $500,000 in the Council’s coffer and that would be significant.

He encouraged those in attendance to become vocal advocates of the arts.

“The arts are bipartisan,” Head said.

“The arts celebrate diversity and inspire creativity. We all have a story to tell. Go tell your story. Tell in more often and tell it better.”
Richard Metzger represented the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center Foundation at the meeting.

“Al Head was right,” he said. “We must tell our stories. We must do a much better job of letting people know about our programs and of their value to our community. People need to know and understand the good things that we do. We are an inclusive organization that improves the quality of life for all our citizens.”

Metzger said young people receive direct benefits from the arts.

“Schools are having to make cuts in their programs and arts organizations are stepping in to offer opportunities for our young people,” he said.

“It is up to us to get the word out – to tell our stories. The proof will now be in the pudding. It’s up to us to rally our communities in support of the arts.”