Budget cuts "killing" local arts council

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 at six o'clock, April 19, 2010

AUGUSTA,Ga---Entertainment options in Augusta may change if state leaders win a fierce budget battle. Georgia House members approved a budget that eliminates the Georgia Council for the Arts.

If the budget passes Georgia would become the only state in the nation without a state arts agency. Local agencies say they may be forced to close.

How do you fill a more than $700 million dollar in the state budget? Some say start by cutting the arts.

"You don't want to just go back into some dark ages," said Brenda Durant with the Augusta Arts Council. "Where we don't have arts anymore."

A night at the symphony may soon be harder to come by because the Georgia Council for the Arts is on the chopping block.

"It is always easy to say forget the arts," complained Augusta symphony conductor Shizuo Z. Kuwahara. "Eventually we won't be able to pay the musicians, and we will no longer be in existence."

The Sacred Heart Cultural Center and the Augusta symphony collectively face more than $20,000 in cuts. The Imperial Community Theater faces up to $5,000 in cuts. The Morris Museum of Art could see up to $60,000 in cuts. In the end, Richmond County could lose more than $150,000 in funding for the arts.

"The total elimination of that program," said Sen. Hardie Davis. "I feel confident that is not going to happen...cuts are a different thing."

"We are killing ourselves," said Durant. "We are taking away money, and we wonder why tax collections are down."

The art community planned protests in Atlanta this week.

"Well it kinda goes down to we don't know what we've got until it's gone," said Durant. "We don't want to wait until next year and realize what a horrible mistake we've made."

The House approved the more than $17 billion budget. The Senate will take up the issue as early as Tuesday.

The Grassroots Art Program is also being cut. Things like Art in the Park in Columbia County could lose funding. That program funds art programs in 12 area counties.

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