UPDATE! Call to Action: We know budgets need to be cut, but this is ridiculous

In one of the many enewsletters I get came this disturbing piece of news for anyone who cares about the arts community: The House Appropriations and Finance Committee will meet Wednesday, January 28 at 1:30 p.m. to vote on the budget proposals submitted by the State of New Mexico's Legislative Finance Committee and the Executive Branch. The LFC recommends reducing New Mexico Arts budget by $400,000 and the Executive Branch by $100,000. This would represent a 45-50% reduction to organizations receiving funding through New Mexico Arts grant budget. Overall, state agencies are facing a 10% reduction in budget while New Mexico Arts is facing a considerably steeper reduction. To see a 10-year history of New Mexico Arts funding, click here and look to the right column or check this post.

Everyone knows that it's tough to be a legislator this year, and that hard choices need to be made. But penalizing a program that has been chronically underfunded in the past, and upon which so many worthy arts groups rely to keep the doors open is like flogging a dead horse.

What does that mean for Albuquerque arts groups? Many Albuquerque arts groups receive money from NM Arts and could be negatively effected if the budget cut were enacted. In FY 2009, 45 Bernalillo County groups, including Tricklock, the NM Arts & Crafts Fair, Keshet, National Institute of Flamenco, KNME-TV, NM Symphony Orchestra, VSA Arts, and Working Classroom received funding. Groups received as little as $1,200 to as much as $8,800.(Unfortunately, the list is not available online.)

I'll be emailing my state representative to express my displeasure, and hope you will, too. Find yours here.

At the same time as this potentially devestating budget cut is being proposed to NM Arts, the Economic & Rural Development Committee has endorsed and submitted SB24 which calls for a $900,000 increase in New Mexico Arts grant budget. I'll be contacting my legislator to request her support of the bill. Thanks to the advocacy of the New Mexico Community Arts Network and the Arts Alliance for seeing this bill submitted.

If you care at all about the arts, please make your voice heard!

UPDATE from Kevin Hagen, President of the Arts Alliance:

The House Appropriations and Finance Committee voted on Jan. 28 to table a recommendation from the Legislative Finance Committee for a cut of $408,000 in grant funds for New Mexico Arts. And on Jan. 29, the Senate Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee gave a unanimous "do pass" recommendation to Senate Bill 24, which would increase grant funding for New Mexico Arts by $900,000. The Arts Alliance, working with New Mexico Arts and others, helped to organize testimony and supportive attendance at both meetings.

Bravo and thanks to all those who made phone calls and wrote e-mails to House members. Almost every committee member who spoke made reference to the very high volume of calls they had gotten on this issue. Your calls make a huge difference, and the number of calls stand in sharp contrast with many other issues before the Legislature.

Next steps include further discussions and negotiations on where we will wind up between the two positions -- a $408,000 cut and a $900,000 increase.

Views: 8

Comment by Through the Flower on January 26, 2009 at 4:35pm
Please call or email your representative! It will only take a few minutes and can mean the survival of many of our beloved arts organizations.
Comment by cc on January 26, 2009 at 9:12pm
Thank you thank you for this timely and important call to action, Kelly.
Comment by BoogieMama on January 27, 2009 at 8:52am
Don't forget that Humanities funding is related to Arts funding, so if they're looking at cuts in the arts, they're looking at cuts in humanities funding, too. This is a critical time for many organizations, who are trying to launch projects for the NM Centennial of statehood in 2012. For many of them, if they don't get funded now, they will not be able to finish their projects in time for the Centennial.

One project to which I am particularly partial, as the history-obsessed mother of a little boy, is the History Train. There is a massive volunteer-driven effort to restore a lovely steam locomotive to working condition (the one that used to sit at I-40 and 2nd St) and have it travel around the state, bringing history programs to all. The volunteers have been working so hard, on almost no money at all, and are done with the boiler, and in the process of rebuilding the engine. They are very worried that without some money from the state they will not be able to finish until years after the Centennial.
Comment by W2M on January 27, 2009 at 11:05am
I know art is important but I would rather have decent healthcare, good libraries and /or schools that produce people who can work at a decent job that can support themselves.
Comment by cc on January 27, 2009 at 12:46pm
Well, then, let's imagine a society without art programs for the public.

No programs like Working Classroom, The Middle School Poetry Slam, free school tours to east Indian music at the Outpost Performance Space, Art in the Schools programs in our elementary schools, the folks with disabilities who spend a day or two a week at VSA on North 4th to develop their strengths of expression in a needed community setting. Also Channel 5 programming.

What our tiny state NM Arts budget helps provide now is a lot of enrichment to folks who would not ordinarily have any access to forms of expression. The folks who run these programs have learned to be creative with funding with such small support from gov't.

I throw in my vote for the arts BEING funded by gov't. 'Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' needs art.

I wonder what the statistics are for other nations and art funding. I am willing to place a big bet that we are the lowest!
Comment by Kelly on January 27, 2009 at 3:01pm
@W2M: How about all the jobs and healthcare benefits that these groups provide their employees? Any guess as to how many employees those 45 Bernalillo County arts groups have? Does cutting the already pitiful budget of NM Arts (FY 2009 was $548,000 for the entire state) really do anything to help the state's budget crisis? No, it doesn't.
Comment by W2M on January 27, 2009 at 4:01pm
I would hazard a guess that on $548,000 a year, they dont have alot of employees. Volunteers, sure. people who will go on volunteering, no doubt.

But when bread is needed, art is luxury. Right now, art is luxury. Maslow's heirarchy of needs says that a truely integrated person has all their needs met in a progression:
1. Physical needs like food
2. Safety Needs
3. Social Needs
4. Esteem needs
5. Esthetic needs like art and creativity.

Right now, we are nowhere near a spot where we can afford govt support of the integrated person. we need some levels below our esthetic needs met .
I would like to go to the theatre, but right now I need to pay for gas. I would like to have the time to learn to dance, but I need to go to work so I can afford my electric bill.
Comment by W2M on January 27, 2009 at 4:14pm
Oh one other thing...

I really roll my eyes when discussions of budget cutting go straight to "No art in NM will be bad" --- its a pretty big leap of logic to go that far;

will public Art programs, the people who use them and the people who run them suffer as a result of this? yes
will suffering public art programs etc lead to the downfall of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? um, no quicker than same-sex marriage leads to the downfall of civilization;

the economy will improve, art program funding will improve, the cycle will continue. ARt will continue, even in bad economic times...
Comment by W2M on January 27, 2009 at 4:24pm
This discussion of art and bread in tough times is not exclusively New Mexico's problem; at least we are not selling the collections in the Albuquerque Museum or the UNM Museum of ARt.

"Rocked by a budget crisis, Brandeis University will close its Rose Art Museum and sell off a 6,000-object collection that includes work by such contemporary masters as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Nam June Paik."

That makes the 10% + budget cut seem even less significant, eh? In the face of having to sell off whole collections?

so maybe no more Middle School Poetry Slam, but we do hang on to the "The art collection of The Albuquerque Museum concentrates on works by regional artists, contemporary and historical. The collections include major holdings of paintings by the Taos Society of Artists as well as works by members of the Cinco Pintores and the Transcendental Painting Group, along with works in all media by contemporary regional, national and international artists." From the webpage of the Albuquerque Museum
Comment by Through the Flower on January 27, 2009 at 4:39pm
According to the report "The Economic Importance of the Arts and Cultural Industries in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County," by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER)
Arts and cultural industries generate $1.2 billion in revenues, $413 million in wages, and 19,500 jobs, totaling
6% of all employment in the County


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