Augusta arts groups organize to lobby for continued funding

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November 10, 2006

Commissioners are getting close to making cuts to next year's budget, and that has the arts groups in Augusta coming together as one.

Right now at the Imperial Theatre they are getting ready for the Smithereens, an 80's, early 90's rock band from Jersey.

The 13 arts groups who've come together say concerts like won't be able to continue if the commission keeps clipping funding for the arts.

For the first time, all 13 arts groups in Augusta are acting as one, under the name the Augusta Arts Alliance.

"To come together as one voice to tell the commission, tell the public, we are severely underfunded," said Imperial Theatre director Lara Plocha, who is taking the lead role in the group.

She says the group is tired of commissioners cutting funds for the arts.

"In 2006, we received zero, which hurt a lot of the organizations, especially the smaller ones who depend on every dollar in order to survive and bring arts to our community."

And while the coalition is hoping to get the support from the Augusta commission, the issue of arts funding is already being taken up by state leaders.

Senator Ed Tarver is on Georgia's Arts Study Committee. "We're going to come out with a report that will probably recommend increased funding for the arts statewide," he told News 12.

This new alliance says arts in Augusta are responsible for 500 jobs and $15 million in annual revenue for the city. Reason enough, they say, to be spared from the cuts.

"If you're going to cut the budget, cut the things that don't make you money," Plocha said. "Don't cut the budget to things that make you money."

Some of the Augusta commissioners are considering taking money that was once allocated for the Main Street Augusta program, which is no more, and transferring that to the arts. The budget talks are ongoing and we'll see if that happens.

The Augusta Arts Alliance says the arts generate $15 million in revenue each year for the city. They estimate that each time someone attends an arts event in Augusta, they spend $23 in the city.

Some of the other arts groups in this new alliance include the Morris Museum of Art, Storyland Theater, and Creative Impressions.