Thursday, February 19, 2009

NH governor proposes cutting arts funding

Survey: NH arts groups say revenues already down

State funding for the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts would be cut in half, under a budget proposed by Governor John Lynch. Contributions to the arts agency’s budget would decline from of $882,000 in fiscal year 2009, which concludes at the end of June, to $448,000 for the next fiscal year, FY10, and $466,000 for the following fiscal year, the arts agency reports.

This is just the opening salvo in New Hampshire’s state budget preparations – the state House and Senate have yet to weigh in.

The federal stimulus bill approved over the past week includes additional funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. “That’s good news, obviously, but it’s hard to say how much that will affect us,” Jane Eklund, programs information officer for the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, tells me.

Note that the proposed 50 percent cut in state funds means a corresponding 50 percent cut funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, since NEA grants to state arts agencies require a dollar for dollar match, the New Hampshire agency says.

The arts agency reports that the proposed cuts include cutting half of the agency’s staff of nine, including the position of director Rebecca Lawrence. It would also mean a significant cut for artists and organizations receiving funding from the agency, as about 55 percent of the agency’s revenues is redistributed in the form of grants or funding for arts programs.

These cuts come at time when New Hampshire arts nonprofits are already reporting declines in income and ticket sales, according to a survey of 60 groups that the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts released last month. (Their survey was inspired by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts’ October art community survey.)

Sixty-seven percent of the arts groups reported contributions were down, 63 percent said grant funding was decreasing, and 58 percent said ticket sales were down.


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