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 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 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
Comment by Kelly on January 27, 2009 at 4:40pm
@W2M: Comparisons with other parts of the country are not the point. Yes, everyone is suffering, and of course, basic needs must be met first. And to say that cutting NM Arts budgets will lead to no art in NM is silly, agreed. This isn't the only money that these groups get or have to work with. However, for some, it's a goodly chunk of their budget.

The NM Arts grant budget was being cut by the state even in flush times: in FY2000, New Mexico Arts grant budget from the state was $683,977. In FY2009, it decreased to $548,000. That's an almost 20% cut over 9 years.

We're not talking about a 10% cut being proposed this time, either, like other agencies are being asked to do. It's a 45-50% reduction in a budget that has already been decreasing. What this says to me is that legislators aren't hearing that New Mexicans think art is valuable and should be funded. That's what this post is about.

At last night's City Council meeting, some 200 people successfully protested potential budget cuts in social service programs. Those included the library, biopark and the cultural services department. It's amazing what a little citizen action can do.
Comment by Sarahjmd on January 27, 2009 at 5:43pm
As mentioned in another thread, I hate across the board cuts. Art IS important. And the meager amount the arts get in this state is pitiful. I don't even like all the "art" that happens as a result of the state funding, but someone does, and so what if I can't eat it, pay a bill with it, or put it in my car, a society without art is a frightening thought.

My industry is facing serious cuts too. The New Mexico Tourism Department is already out-spent by each of our bordering states by millions and millions and millions of dollars. How can we keep up with their marketing efforts? I haven't confirmed it yet, but I hear that the Cooperative Marketing Grants may also suffer cuts. This will be devastating for so many small non profits that depend on this money and will be left with the burden of advertising New Mexico to the country and the world. We just can't do it. So they won't come to NM.
Comment by cc on January 27, 2009 at 6:04pm
I personally don't want some specific places that NM Arts supports, with say 10-30% of their annual budgets, to have to go without, because they are THAT important to my life - like Outpost, KNME, Working Classroom.

It is all about priorities. Because there are more than Healthcare, Education on the docket of getting funding. Really, you should compare apples with apples because the arts gets pennies compared with what Medicare/Medicaid, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Infrastructure, Transportation and Highway Dept, Homeland Security - all of these are top dollar funding recipients. Compare the Arts line with other smaller potatoes items - like what?

Where is Art on the list for anyone - 5th place, 9th place, 19th place?
It is complex.
Comment by BoogieMama on January 27, 2009 at 6:26pm
Don't forget that by some estimates, one-third of Burqueños are creative professionals. I was thinking about the budget while I was cooking dinner and I got really pissed that here is a growth sector of the economy, that is relatively non-polluting, being passed up (almost certainly on the federal level, probably on the state level) in favor of highway projects & big construction projects to feed a monster that is killing us all anyway.

I would rather drive (or bike, or take the bus) on crappy roads to a fantastic art exhibit than drive on fabulous roads and have nowhere to take the kids.

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