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Arts an Easy Target for States to Slash

Tulsa World via YellowBrix

January 29, 2010

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Ben Ahlvers is a full-time arts education coordinator, but his passion is with the fanciful creatures, human figures and oversized hammers he fashions from clay.

The nationally recognized ceramic artist was chosen to receive a fellowship from the Kansas Arts Commission to attend an artist residency in Montana. But after Kansas officials cut the commission’s budget midyear by $300,000, he didn’t receive the $1,000 check.

“They were still going to have a reception and I joked to somebody that I was going to go and eat $1,000 worth of finger food,” said Ahlvers, 35, who said he and his wife had to live off their credit cards and sell more of his artwork to fund the trip.

“The $1,000 would have made it a lot easier and I wouldn’t have had to fret as much,” he said.

States across the country are slashing their arts funding for the second year in a row as they cope with falling tax revenues. Those cuts, which often happen during recessions, are a serious blow to arts agencies and individual dancers, painters and actors at a time when private donations are down and many art organizations are being more selective in what they produce.

Julie Britton, vice president of development or the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Florida, said officials may have to skew away from avant-garde art designed to push boundaries in favor of things more certain to sell tickets.

The Tampa Bay center’s state grant is expected to be $25,000 or less this year, which is down from $200,000 a couple years ago.

The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies estimates states reduced their arts funding an average of 7 percent in the fiscal year that began July 1. That average doubles to 14 percent when Minnesota is not included because that state almost tripled its art budget to $30.2 million thanks to a new sales tax.

In financially strapped states like Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana and Florida, the reductions are steeper, falling 30 percent or more, forcing agencies to trim grants, shutter programs and lay off employees.

© 2009 Tulsa World. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

Editor’s Note: State and national arts agencies still have millions in grants available to individual artists and arts organizations. ArtBistrohas compiled a list of all state / provincial arts agencies in the U.S. and Canada that provide grants and other funding.

Click here to view the list