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Angela Mitchell

State of the Arts? Not so Good...

By August 3, 2011

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Kansas roadRemember when Kansas completely cut its entire state arts commission, and various officials swore that privatizing the program wouldn't really affect anything? It probably won't shock anyone to hear that, yes, Kansas artists are in fact in desperate need of those missing funds.

As The New York Times points out, while the image of the working artist may be that of a hip New York artist in a cavernous loft, the reality is that the smaller artists and arts organizations are actually the primary beneficiaries of state arts programs, and are also the ones who are now feeling the pinch most acutely as those budgets have dried up.

And it's not just Kansas. According to the article, Wisconsin recently cut its arts budget by 67 percent, Texas by 50 percent, and New Jersey by 23 percent. There have also been rumblings of severe arts cutbacks in Washington state, as well.

As the article notes:

Across the country, this is a tough time for small arts groups, because state grants have largely shriveled up. Thirty-one states, still staggered by the recession, cut their arts budgets for the 2012 fiscal year, which began on July 1, continuing a downturn that has seen such financial aid drop 42 percent over the last decade, according to data compiled by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

The worst part of all of this, for me, is that these budgets are already so tiny, they will make very little difference in alleviating state deficits. Instead of conscientiously going through and finding more logical and impactful ways to cut back on spending, officials who make these arts cuts directly impact such aspects of daily life as whether children get to learn to draw or paint, or whether underprivileged performing arts students will have the option to go to college on scholarship, or even whether a small community is able to stage a little local theatre. What happens when all the outlets for performing arts expression are taken away? Television can never replace the electricity of a live performance, of that sense of a shared experience with the audience.

In the end, states here are saving pennies, but the cost to communities is incalculable.

Image: Courtesy of Flickr user Kyle McCluer

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