Local artists in DC are like the character in the movie Hustle and Flow who says, “I’m sitting here trying to squeeze a dollar out of a dime and I ain’t got a cent.”
Funding for the District’s arts agency – the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) - has been gutted in the last three years, from over $14 million just three years ago to under $5 million in FY 11. Federal arts funding through the National Capital Arts program has also been cut - two weeks ago - from $9.5 to $2.5 million.
And now DC’s proposed FY 12 budget contains further cuts. The proposal is $3.92 million for the DCCAH to support all of the arts organizations, artists, and arts education providers in the District.
Will the District be the home to only the National Gallery and the Kennedy Center, or will we have local artists and local arts organizations in our communities? The outcome of the current budget fight will provide some of the answer.
A recent report from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies notes, “The arts comprise a very small portion of state spending, less than one tenth of one percent. Reducing expenditures that modest won’t appreciably affect state budgets, but will damage the cultural sector’s ability to provide jobs, goods and services to communities.” DC arts support is now just $3.92 million within a total District FY 12 budget of $10.8 billion. Like homeless services, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and general education funding, arts and arts education funding must be protected.
And that is where the DC Advocates for the Arts find ourselves as we prepare for Arts Advocacy Day – April 27, 2011. We are not asking for a bailout, but when financial supports are removed, opportunities for artists disappear, and our communities suffer. In FY 11 the DCCAH gave out over 500 grants. This is money that does a lot of good for a lot of people, and because no one group benefits in particular, this is easy money to cut.
To support Split This Rock and the artists and community it serves please take a minute on Wednesday April 27, 2011 – Arts Advocacy Day – to ask policy-makers to support the arts in the District’s FY 12 budget.
Contact Mayor Gray via email at email@example.com or by phone at (202) 727-6300, and Council Chair Kwame Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 724-8032. Please ask the Mayor and the Council Chair to support the arts in the DC budget by restoring funding for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to the FY 2010 level of $5.16 million. Together we can protect this essential and vital asset for our city.
Robert Bettmann is the Board Chair of the DC Advocates for the Arts. Incorporated as a non-profit in 2010, the DC Advocates for the Arts provide informational and administrative resources facilitating advocacy and public policy solutions for the District of Columbia. To become a member, please visit http://www.dcadvocatesforthearts.org
Robert is also Artistic Director of the dance company Bettmann Dances (http://quis.bettmanndances.com), managing editor for Bourgeon, a DC arts magazine written by artists (http://www.bourgeononline.com) and a consultant. You can contact him at email@example.com.