Arts Groups, Artists Face Second Year of State Budget Cuts

Faced with declining tax revenues, many states are slashing their arts funding for a second consecutive year, dealing a serious blow to arts groups and individual artists, the Associated Press reports.

According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, states reduced their arts funding by 7 percent on average for the fiscal year that began July 1. However, the figure jumps to 14 percent when Minnesota, which this year nearly tripled its arts budget to $30.2 million, is excluded. In financially strapped states such as Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana, and Florida, arts budgets fell by at least 30 percent, while in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, lawmakers are considering eliminating their state arts agencies entirely.

Indeed, over the past two years, arts budgets nationally have fallen some 20 percent, compared with 38 percent between 2001 and 2004 and 28 percent during the early 1990s, said NASAA spokeswoman Angela Han. This year, states got a bit of a boost from increases in National Endowment for the Arts and federal stimulus funding, but many state officials say the new funding won't make up for what they had lost. While states are responsible for just 2 percent of total annual arts revenue in the United States, according to Americans for the Arts, organizations often use those funds to leverage money from local governments, match federal funding, and attract private donations.

"[The cuts are] really going to have a devastating effect," said Terry Scrogum, executive director of the Illinois Arts Council, which saw its budget fall by 51 percent this year, to $7.8 million. "We're going to try to maintain as many of the operating grants as we can. They're obviously going to be at a reduced level. Others will be whittled down or suspended."

David Twiddy. "Arts an Easy Target as Many States Cut Budgets." Associated Press 08/29/2009.