Mich. Budget Would Eliminate Arts Funding

BY Arts Desk  February 13, 2009 at 5:16 PM EST

When Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced her 2010 budget proposal on Thursday, there was something missing: money for the arts. The cut comes at a time when arts organizations are already struggling to make up for millions lost in corporate donations, foundation support and endowments. This year, the state gave $7.9 million to nearly 300 arts groups, creating some 2,300 full-time jobs.

“We are struggling here. We are tired, but we are tireless,” said Aku Kadogo, a choreographer, director and professor at Wayne State University in Detroit.

If the budget proposal is passed, many of the state’s largest arts organizations will take some of the biggest hits, including the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It also calls for eliminating the state’s Department of History, Arts and Libraries.

“While some organizations will be highly threatened by the loss of state funding—and it will be huge for them—for many other organizations, it makes the mountain that much higher,” said Maud Lyon, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan. “It makes it that much harder to leverage foundations and other donations, to plan succinctly and deliver services to audiences that need them in underserved communities, which is the kind of thing government funding did.”

Detroit arts organizations have been hit particularly hard given they rely on funding from the automobile industry. In January, General Motors told arts groups not to expect any money. Combined with the proposed state cuts, it means serious drops in funding for a number of institutions. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra alone stands to lose more than $500,000.

“Certainly our hope is local community partners will assist where they can in preserving arts organizations,” said Leslee Fritz, spokesperson for the State Budget Office. “The simple truth is we have a very challenged economy and resources at the state, and we had to make a series of very difficult choices.”

Arts groups and advocacy organizations have vowed to fight Gov. Granholm’s proposal. Her plan does include some arts money that would be tied to bond sales, but that money would be limited for use in capital improvements and not operating costs.

“No cut brings good consequences other than to save money you need to balance the budget,” Fritz said. “It is an unfortunate circumstance.”

One hopeful note: The economic stimulus bill approved Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives includes $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts to give to state arts organizations and special arts projects. The Senate was expected to vote on the final bill Friday evening.