Last week came the news that cuts to arts funding in the state budget had gotten the approval of state legislators and a signature from Gov. Bobby Jindal. Groups like Louisiana Citizens for the Arts had hoped for better, noting in a public campaign that the new budget would reduce arts funding by 33% from last year.
In East Baton Rouge Parish in 2009, Decentralized Arts Funding amounted to $233,307, according to the group. Next year, the parish is expected to receive only $74,649 in DAF monies thanks to the cuts.
Laura Larkin, grants and community development director at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge—who also assisted LCA's campaign—says the organization is normally able to fund about 30 applications a year, but the amount awarded has gone down significantly. “In 2009, we were able to provide Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre $16,052, in 2012 their award was down to $7,883,” Larkin says. “That was with $111,417 to distribute in East Baton Rouge Parish, so I can't even imagine how we are going to make the decisions on splitting up only $75,000."
The list of organizations vying for that small pot of money include the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, Baton Rouge Symphony, Baton Rouge Gallery, Baton Rouge Little Theatre, Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre, Swine Palace, Opera Louisiane, Playmakers, the parish library's summer reading program and many more.
Of course, this isn't the only funding source for these organizations, and LCA noted in an email that, “Most affected will be rural arts/culture agencies like small-town museums, festivals, community theater groups, and others that provide the only access to the arts in local parishes.”
Julie Rose, director of one of those small-town museums outside East Baton Rouge, the West Baton Rouge Museum in Port Allen, says the amounts they've been awarded through Decentralized Arts Funding and Statewide Art Grants aren't huge, but are substantial enough to make a big difference—helping to fund the annual SugarFest and regional history exhibits. The museum only has six full-time employees.
“I want to be optimistic and say we have to figure out how to deal with the sad news. Maybe this will be temporary,” Rose says. “We are definitely not going to fold because of this, but we are going to have to reevaluate how to do things differently. That might mean we may not get to hire top performers to come here, maybe we'll have to get their students to perform, I don't know.”
Rose let out a weary laugh as she said that.
Philippe Radelet, who has been with Ascension Community Theatre for six years, was more optimistic. He says most of their money comes through ticket sales and fundraising drives and helps pay the mortgage on their facility. But the time spent applying for smaller and smaller grants is unproductive for a mostly volunteer-based organization.
“At some point, we won't even apply for the state funds,” he says.
—The smART City blog focuses on the local art scene and smart growth in the Baton Rouge area, as well as occasions when those two topics collide. Email assistant editor Benjamin Leger at email@example.com.
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