This year's state budget shortfall seems certain to have harsh reverberations in Louisiana's arts community ... but few probably suspected how deep the cuts would be. As Mary Tutwiler at The Independent reports:
Arts officials gathering in Baton Rouge yesterday for a meeting of the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts got the grim news. Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to cut nearly $2.5 million, an 83 percent reduction, from Decentralized Arts Funding. The sweeping cut would leave little more than $500,000 for DAF funding statewide. Jindal also proposed cutting statewide arts grants by 31 percent, slicing regional folklife funding in half and eliminating funding for artist fellowships....
Scott Hutchenson, assistant secretary of the state Office of Cultural Development in Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieus office, says these grants are a tremendous economic boost to every parish in the state. The cultural economy is a $10 billion industry supporting 144,000 jobs. Its certainly worth the investment, and the return on the investment has been significant. Our cultural stakeholders have made the industry a significant player in Louisianas economic health.
Both Landrieu's office and state arts organizations have vowed to work to change the proposed budget during the legislative session.
Already the local arts community is asking its supporters to mobilize and give legislators constituent ammunition to keep the funding. The Arts Council of New Orleans has directions on its Web site:
Please go to the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts website, and type in your zip code in the Write Your Legislator box at the lower left hand corner....
Click on Take Action, read the Alert, then scroll down to Compose Message where you will see the brief letter that Louisiana Partnership for the Arts has composed to be sent to each member of the Appropriations Committee.
We need to HIT HOME that this 83% cut of Decentralized Grants and the 31% cut in Statewide Arts Grants will devastate the cultural economy of Louisiana which is the number-two industry in the state.
Once you have TAKEN ACTION, please pass this email on to your board members, membership and friends. Through grassroots efforts in 1994, we were able to restore the arts funding when faced with a similar situation. WITH YOUR HELP WE CAN DO IT AGAIN, NOW.
Tax dollars for arts programs aren't popular with many conservative and libertarian legislators during even the most flush of times (witness the 1980s dustup over the National Endowment for the Arts). And the state budget will have to be cut this year; it's just a question of where and how much ... and, quite possibly, how much muscle Mitch Landrieu can and will exert behind the scenes when the legislature convenes in April.