Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One More Call to Keep the Arts Alive in Virginia

The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge is among those raising the battle flag today as the General Assembly heads into final negotiations about whether to fund the arts or become a Third World Nation.

At stake here is not only state funding, but because a key threatened agency funnels federal dollars to arts organizations, those dollars, as well. It's a two-fer for those opposed to government support of the arts.

Alan Albert of the Virginia Foundation for the Arts says, "There remains the possibility for a significant, further cut in funding for arts grants through the Virginia Commission for the Arts. We are guardedly optimistic that the notion of eliminating the Commission entirely is no longer under serious consideration, but a cut in funding of as much as 50 percent remains a possibility as House and Senate negotiators struggle to harmonize a Senate plan that depends in part on some $325 million in new fees and user charges, on the one hand, and a House plan that eschews fee increases, on the other."

Laura Rawlings of the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge puts a finer edge on it: "if the Virginia Commission for the Arts [VCA] receives these cuts, this will impact the funds it receives from the National Endowment for the Arts (through the State Partnership Grant). Someone told me last week that the VCA would still receive National Endowment for the Arts funds even if the VCA wasn’t around. Not true. If the VCA isn’t there to submit their grant to the NEA, the VCA won’t receive the funds. (It will also receive fewer funds if it receives these cuts. Think about how you submit your grant applications and if you don’t have enough matching funds, you can’t apply for as much money. It’s the same process except on a statewide/national level). Keep in mind that the VCA applies for grants just like we do."

The effect of the state cuts, then, is a double hit and, frankly, some of our arts organizations may not be able to survive it.

The House and Senate will talk about the pending legislation (which is vastly different from the two bodies; the House wanting to kill all funding). Among House conferees is Lacey Putney of Bedford and on the Senate side, try to talk to William Wampler of Bristol or Janet Howell of Reston.

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