As states across the nation grapple with budget shortfalls, a growing number of state arts agencies are facing steep cuts, while several are in danger of being eliminated altogether, Miller-McCune magazine reports.
In Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback signed an executive order last week to replace the Kansas Arts Commission with a nonprofit organization, effective July 1 — a possibility that Arts Commission chair Henry Schwaller has already discussed with legislators. While the state will save nearly $600,000 a year as a result, it will also lose $1.2 million in federal matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. "We understand there's a $500 million deficit," Schwaller told the Kansas City Star. "But our funding is so small — only 29 cents per capita per year — that cutting this is not going to make a sizable dent."
In at least three other states — Texas, Washington, and South Carolina — the governor's proposed budget would eliminate the state arts commissions entirely, while in Arizona the Commission on the Arts stands to lose all its funding from the state's general revenue fund.
Ken May, executive director of the South Carolina Arts Commission told Miller McCune that since Governor Nikki Haley called for eliminating the commission (as well as South Carolina Educational Television), concerned citizens have mounted a grassroots effort to save the agency. And in Texas, where Governor Rick Perry's budget simply eliminated funding to the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Cultural Trust published a report describing how five cities have successfully leveraged their cultural arts and creative sectors to create jobs and additional tax revenue.
"A healthy arts economy, stimulated by a small bit of government investment, reaps huge rewards," said Bob Lynch, president of the advocacy group Americans for the Arts. "We estimate the aggregate budget of the 109,000 nonprofit arts organizations in America adds up to about $66 billion. That spins off an economic impact of $166 billion, using a very conservative model."