By Howard Pousner
The $17.8 billion budget passed by the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday night calls for the elimination of the Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA). Georgia would become the only state in the U.S. without an arts agency if that plan holds as the budget works its way through full House and Senate before going to Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The GCA, which awards highly competitive programming grants that touch all corners of state, was slated for a 79 percent funding cut in the governor’s proposed budget. It recommended $890,735 for the state arts agency, down from $2.32 million this year and $4.18 million as recently as fiscal 2008. Even before the latest cut, Georgia ranked 44th among states in per capita arts appropriations in fiscal 2009, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
All that would remain now is $250,000 in granting funds that would be transferred to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to administer.
But Allen Bell, program director for the regional arts organization South Arts, pointed out Wednesday that the loss to Georgia’s non-profit arts agencies would be far greater. The GCA received $812,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts in fiscal 2009, but Georgia would not qualify for a similar allocation if its state arts agency is eliminated. Ditto South Arts grants to Georgia arts groups for presenting touring artists; those grants totaled more than $100,000 over the last two years.
GCA leadership sent out an alert to state arts groups asking how the loss of arts council funding would impact programming, staffing and audiences.
Georgia Shakespeare artistic director Richard Garner said Wednesday that its Will on Wheels program, which has taken performances and workshops to 50 Georgia counties already this school year, would have to be downsized into an “Atlanta-centric” program.
“In Atlanta, children can come see a show at Georgia Shakes or the Alliance Theatre, but in St. Marys they don’t have that opportunity,” Garner said.