Arts boosters bemoan cuts to state council on the arts
DENVER – Arts promoters scrambled Thursday to craft an amendment to reinstate funds the Joint Budget Committee axed this week from this year’s Colorado Council on the Arts (CCA) budget.
The amendment, which will be disclosed Monday, proposes the Legislature restore $830,353 so the CCA can get federal matching funds.
The Legislature is scheduled to review, and possibly approve, this year’s budget – complete with $850 million in cuts – on Monday. The fiscal year ends June 30. In May, legislators will address next year’s budget deficit, currently estimated to exceed $869 million.
The Joint Budget Committee’s cut is the second blow legislators have delivered to the CCA. On March 10, legislators cut $1.07 million from the CCA’s budget, leaving the organization with $830,353 – the minimum required to qualify for matching federal funds.
The budget cut also puts Colorado at the bottom of the list when it comes to state funding for the arts, although Oregon legislators are about to follow suit and eliminate their arts budget.
“I remember coming out here and thinking, “I’m going to move to Colorado because it was so wonderful that they were third in the nation for funding,'” said Sandy Greenhut, vice president for the statewide organization Arts for Colorado and chair of the Summit County Arts Council. “We’re such a liberal state, and we’ve always supported the arts. How did we fall to this? We were third once. And now we’re 50th.”
The CCA has helped fund more than $37 million to arts organizations since 1968. Local beneficiaries include the Backstage Theatre, the Breckenridge Music Institute, the Summit County Arts Council and the National Repertory Orchestra. But many other people – artists, writers and dancers among them – apply for grants each year.
“Summit County is dependent on the CCA,” Greenhut said. “We were delighted when they didn’t cut us the last time.”
Chris Alleman, performing arts director for the Dillon Foundation for the Performing Arts, has received CCA grants in the past to create plays as part of the organization’s student outreach program. Last year, high school students performed “Just Like Us,” a play that sought to teach theater-goers that being different from others is something to be celebrated.
“Art has the ability to educate, to enlighten, to persuade,” Alleman said. “It’s a wonderful tool to get many messages across to society. More importantly, for children, it creates in them a sense of creativity, spontaneity, of imagination. To lose that tool is just horrific.”
Jan McKim, owner of Skilled Hands Gallery, president of the Summit County Arts Council and active participant in numerous other arts-related groups, agreed.
“That’s going to severely hurt all the nonprofits – no doubt about that,” she said. “We’ll have to do a lot more creative marketing concepts to make up the losses. I do believe a pulling-together of all us in Summit County would be needed to continue on in the arts.”
She and others agree that arts promoters haven’t worked hard enough to show legislators how important art is to society.
“The arts people have to understand they need to work politically,” Greenhut said.
“Without art, you don’t have civilization,” she said. “I feel very strongly about that. But the bottom line? It brings money in.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or email@example.com.
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