Point of View

Short-sighted NC lawmakers cut funds to life-enhancing arts

July 5, 2013 

Current budget proposals put forth by the N.C. Senate and House call for reductions in arts grants programs and substantial cuts to the staff of the Arts Council.

The board of the N.C. Arts Council focuses on three main areas that benefit all of North Carolina: Creating a strong arts infrastructure across the state, planning and implementing economic development initiatives using the arts and enhancing the creativity of our students and youth.

Perhaps our legislators are not aware that in our state there are:

•  Approximately 50,000 artist and crafts persons.

•  Over 3,000 nonprofit arts organizations.

•  90 local arts councils.

•  586 galleries and museums.

•  326 theater performing groups.

•  133 dance companies.

•  674 music performing groups.

The N.C. Arts Council receives applications annually from arts organizations, schools, local governments and other nonprofit groups interested in using the arts to improve their communities. To evaluate these applications, our staff thoroughly researches the proposals and convenes panels of members with extensive knowledge and expertise in the arts. These panels (which are open to the public) grade each application, recommend funding amounts and present their results to the full Arts Council board for review and approval.

The board’s recommendations are then presented to the secretary of Cultural Resources, who makes final decisions. This procedure has worked well over many years and promoted high standards and fairness in funding for the arts around the state.

What is the reasoning behind these severe cuts aimed specifically at our grants programs and at our exemplary staff? The arts are the primary cause of attracting thousands of tourists to the state.

Have legislators not seen the economic studies showing there is a multiplier effect of almost $20 created in the arts for every dollar invested by Arts Council grants? Arts and cultural organizations and audiences generate more than $62.3 million in revenues for the state.

It should be obvious that one of the major reasons that people want to live in North Carolina or that new businesses, manufacturing plants and corporate offices open here is because of our outstanding cultural activities, including museums, performing arts centers, ballets, symphonies and theaters that are supported by the Arts Council.

Are our legislators not aware that the creative industry in North Carolina accounts for nearly 300,000 jobs and that that has remained stable during the recession? Creative occupations provide jobs for nearly 3 percent of the North Carolina work force.

Since 2008 there have been substantial reductions in funding to the Arts Council. These reductions have negatively affected our legislative mandate, which is to “bring the highest obtainable quality in the arts to the state; promote the maximum opportunity for the people to experience, enjoy, and profit from those arts.”

The total state appropriation to the N.C. Arts Council is a tiny 0.03 percent of the state budget. This represents $0.68 per capita, which ranks us 29 in the nation. The state budgets proposed by the Senate and the House will drop us even lower relative to other states and be devastating to our mission.

The N.C. Arts Council is considered one of the nation’s most effective. Our programs enjoy a well-deserved reputation for delivering public value to residents, and our staff is frequently called on to assist other states with issues such as arts-driven economic development, arts education and cultural tourism development.

Yet the most important factor of all as to why the Arts Council’s budget should be increased instead of being substantially decreased is that the arts provide a quality of life for all North Carolina residents, young and old.

Bobby Kadis, chair of the N.C. Arts Council, is a former chair of the Penland School of Crafts in Western North Carolina and a founding partner of Centrex Properties Inc. in Raleigh.

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