Slated for elimination by the Georgia House last week, the Georgia Council for the Arts had its funding restored by a Senate panel todayTuesday.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $17.8 billion budget that includes money the House had stripped from the arts council. The council’s budget will receive a steep cut from the $2.52 million it received in fiscal 2010, but the agency will not be eliminated, as the House had intended.
Elimination of the council could have meant the loss of $878,300 in federal National Endowment for the Arts grants for Georgia.
House leaders wanted to replace the GCA with a new agency, the Georgia Arts Alliance, which was created by legislation in 2008 to “foster public-private partnership for support of the arts” and to support arts education. The Georgia Arts Alliance would have worked in concert with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, where the House voted to move $250,000 in arts granting funds.
But National Endowment for the Arts officials questioned whether the two-agency arrangement would qualify as being eligible for NEA funding. Georgia would have become the only state in the U.S. without an official arts agency recognized by the NEA.
Laura A. Scanlan, NEA director of state and regional partnerships, said this week that organizations “must have a three-year history of programming and sufficient capacity of fulfill the requirements of our grant guidelines” in order to be eligible for NEA funding. She added that the Georgia Arts Alliance had not applied for NEA funding.
The NEA “requires not only a financial commitment from the state but also the infrastructure and expertise to effectively address the unique needs of the broad expanse of arts and cultural resources within the state,” Scanlan said.
On Monday, several hundred artists and arts supporters protested outside the Capitol, arguing that arts funding is critical to the state’s economy. “Cultural bankruptcy? Art = $$ for Georgia,” read one sign hoisted by protesters.
In a statement, GCA chief Susan Weiner said Tuesday, “Georgia Council for the Arts is thankful that the Georgia Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to include the governor’s recommendation in its budget. With the votes of the full Senate and the Conference Committee, Georgia will not lose its federal and regional funding. Though our state funding will be down 88 percent from fiscal year 2008, GCA can continue to support our highly productive nonprofit arts industry.”
Founded in 1965 as the Georgia Commission on the Arts, the GCA received $4.18 million in state funding as recently as fiscal 2008.