Thursday, February 25, 2010

Funding Could Be Eliminated From Local Arts Organization

The House Appropriations Committee in Richmond has announced it will recommend funding be cut in half to the Virginia Arts Commission in FY 2010 and that funding be completely eliminated in FY 2011. This is one of many recommended cuts to the Commonwealth's budget aimed at balancing the $4 billion revenue shortfall.

Theresa Bliss, Attorney in Onancock and Artistic Director of the North Street Playhouse, says that is not a good idea.

"These cuts can really cripple smaller organizations," explains Bliss. "The arts are responsible for jobs and education. With all the cuts to the schools, arts education falls back on these small arts organizations. The North Street Playhouse, along with other organizations on the Shore such as ESO & ACES, hold educational classes year around."

Bliss said many of the funds the North Street Playhouse receives from the Commonwealth are returned to small businesses here on the Shore.

"The arts are not frivolous," said Bliss. "They are invaluable to the life of any healthy community and to dismiss that is blindly short sided."

Bliss estimated that anywhere between six to twelve non-profit arts organizations receive funds from the Virginia Arts Commission for shows and events.

Nick Covatta, President of the Virginia Arts Commission, says the arts provide a direct economic benefit to all communities. Covatta said the Onancock restoration took place in large part due to organizations like the North Street Playhouse and the Art Galleries in town.

"People come into town for a show, then they want to go to dinner," Covatta said. "They'll come to visit for the summer and stay in the B&Bs and go to a show while in town. It's a huge economic driver."

The Virginia Senate voted on their budget today, which took Governor McDonnell's proposal to only cut 10% of the funds to the Virginia Art Commission. The final budget will be reached in reconciliation. Covatta will be traveling to Richmond to speak to the Reconciliation Committee to urge them to not cut the entire Commission.

"I'm optimistic that we'll only lose 10% of our funding, not half of it... I understand the State has to cut $4 billion out of a $12 trillion budget and that's not easy. But you cut things, you don't disband things."

The Virginia Commission for the Arts is the state agency that supports the arts through funding from the VA. General Assembly and Nat'l. Endowment for the Arts. These grant awards are given to artists, arts and other not-for-profit organizations, educational institutions, local goverments and educators, and provides technical assistance for art management.

These monies over the years have enabled Onancock to become the beautiful town that it is and has also given many artists the ability to display their work so beautifully. It has also given the youth of today the opportunity to understand just how important all of the arts and different talents are in our society. The North Street Playhouse and the art galleries are very important for everyone in that area.

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