GA Arts Funding on Guillotine; Artists to March Mon., Apr. 19


Depending on how the legislative vote goes, Georgia could soon become the first state to zero-out — that is, eliminate — its arts agency, called the Georgia Council for the Arts.

Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday:

Story continues below.

The Georgia House on Wednesday passed a $17.8 billion state budget that would wipe out the GCA and transfer nearly $250,000 in granting funds to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to administer. The GCA operates with a $2.52 million budget this year and would have received $890,735 in Gov. Sonny Perdue’s proposed budget before cuts were required.

The article noted that the very existence of the Georgia Council for the Arts makes it eligible for appropriations from the National Endowment for the Arts — to the now-inconsiderable tune of $900,000:

In a letter to GCA officials, Patrice Walker Powell, NEA Deputy Chairman for Programs and Partnership, wrote, “We would need documentation addressing how the Georgia Department of Community Affairs would fulfill the responsibilities of the NEA Partnership Agreement. If the Department of Community Affairs is unable to carry out the Partnership Agreement, NEA support of $878,3000 for FY 2011 would be jeopardized.”

On Friday, meanwhile, the AJC reported:

A loose coalition of artists plans to show support for the Georgia Council for the Arts by marching from the Rialto Theatre to the Capitol on Monday afternoon.

By late afternoon Friday, the march’s Facebook page (“Artist march on the Capitol”) showed more than 200 supporters had confirmed plans to participate in the march.

Here, for those of you in Atlanta, are the details:

Monday, April 19, 2010
1:00pm – 3:00pm
Start at The Rialto, march to the Capitol.
80 Forsyth Street, NW
Atlanta, GA

Two thoughts on all of this, very quickly.

One: In a recent Arts Advocacy Update on the CFR, I mentioned an article I wrote for Back Stage that included quotes from Rachel May of Atlanta’s Synchronicity Theatre, who discussed the need to educate lawmakers about arts funding. As CFR readers know, I feel the nonprofit business model as it pertains to state arts funding is a mess: For more than 20 years now, each time the winds change direction, north or south, funding goes up or funding goes down, and it’s no way to run a railroad. Yet while I feel that we have remove public appropriations for the arts at the national, state and local level from political interference (and I believe that in states like Georgia this is all very political — as political as fiscal), eliminating a state arts agency is not the way to solve problems, either. And it doesn’t do employment one bit of good.

Second, an update: more than 300 people have signed up to march. The question is what will come out of it.

  • I think that separation of culture and state should be as fundamental as separation of church and state.

    The same logic that demands gay marriage, that culture be left out of governmental decisions, also demands that the government stay out of arts funding.

    Have we all forgotten that being allowed not to pay corporate taxes is a huge benefit? It allows nfp’s to put shows on Broadway and gives them a huge advantage over the tax-paying theater. It is as far as the government should go in supporting the arts. Anything ese is morally wrong and invites ethical compromise for the arts. You should be ashamed of wanting to make “government approved” art.

  • Daniel Summers, Jr.

    Respectfully, Mr. Sanderson, I think that there is a misunderstanding the situation within your comment. The GA Council for the Arts does not approve or disapprove art for the government of GA. Instead, it’s mission is quite simple: “access to the arts for all Georgians. As a state agency, GCA provides this access through the award of highly competitive grants that fund arts programming.” (taken from,2096,148472487_148560010,00.html).

    The GCA has very rigorous grant application, monitoring, and review processes. Some projects receive funding, some don’t; most of those with funding have some form of an educational or community activity component. Many projects are based in local GA communities.

    Still, the debate within our state legislature is not one of public approval of the arts. It is a fiscal argument of how best to allocate funds within a budget with an overwhelming deficit. The validity of the GCA is not being questioned directly; although, of course, this question is being raised by the fiscal issue. The state is trying to balance the budget and the legislative officials are having to make very tough decisions. Fair enough, this is their job as our elected officials and I pray that they are blessed with patience, wisdom, and clear guidance.

    However, it does not make fiscal sense to eliminate a program that receives matching funds as is the case with the GCA. It is a basic mathematical equation- if the state will lose more money than it will save by eliminating this line from the budget, then the elimination is not the best choice. Instead, there are other state programs that are receiving funds that do not receive such a match and this fact must be considered by our legislatures.

    I will not hazard a guess as to what programs should be reduced instead, I have neither the data/knowledge or responsibility to make such a judgment. That is not to say that I do not have my opinions; I do and frequently share them with my representatives (as should every Georgian/American). This is part of the reason why I plan to march to the capital with other of the GA arts community.

    If the state of Georgia wishes to examine the validity of a state-wide arts council, then we should do that within our established legal forums and bring it to a vote using the proper procedures. Eliminating the funding in the manner by which it is currently happening precludes this public debate from occurring. We, the citizens of Georgia, cannot allow this to happen without our public dissent. If you do not raise an objection, then your silence implies agreement. We may not be able to alter the course that the GA House of Rep has set by its budget; however, we must express that we do not agree with this choice, how it was made, and the vast repercussions that will be its result.

    • Mr. Summers, I would love to speak with you directly about what happens on Monday. Please feel free to email me if you like.

      Leonard Jacobs

  • Well said, Daniel, exceedingly well said. It is extremely upsetting to me that the possible dissolution of the GCA is happening so quickly and (relatively) quietly. While I hold a little hope that the march today will raise the profile of this issue, I can’t say that I have much optimism that the GCA will remain intact. However, if the GCA goes away, could this be just the opportunity that the arts community and the general art-loving public needs to make another push for the tenth-of-a-penny dedicated funding stream? I’ve begun to believe that the arts cannot get the sustainable funding needed from the traditional government sources. We need a dedicated stream that isn’t up for this kind of annual debate, one in which the decision between public safety and the arts doesn’t even come into play. Are we too married to the funding structures we have known? Is the reality of Georgia being the ONLY state or territory in the U.S. to not have a state arts agency exactly the kind of wakeup call we need?

    I wish you luck today. I’m there with you in spirit albeit from my desk in Richmond.

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