Georgia Council for the Arts wants your help - UPDATE

UPDATE: Folks are organizing an artists’ march on the Capitol this Mon., April 19 from 1-3 p.m. March starts at the Rialto. Details are available at the event’s Facebook page.

Yesterday, Georgia Council for the Arts, the organization that provides access to state funds for artists and arts organizations, announced that their heads are essentially upon the fiscal chopping block amid the current state legislative session. If recently voted upon budget cuts for next year remain in place, with the GCA’s budget reduced to a truly negligible amount, the move will give Georgia the distinction of being the only state without an arts agency.

It’s like the ice cream truck guy giving you a really pitiful scoop on your cone and when you give him an “is that all...really?” side-eye of incredulity, he just takes the whole cone away. Georgia arts has long desired a sincerely heaping serving of funding - and now it might lose even more.

The Council sent out this urgent message yesterday:

“We have no documentation yet, but were told that the House Appropriations Committee voted yesterday to cut our budget for FY 2011 to less than $250,000. Most importantly, these funds are to be transferred to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). We don’t know if this means that Georgia Council for the Arts (1) will no longer exist, (2) we will become part of DCA, or (3) the funds will be used to close out the FY 2010 Final Reports and end GCA. Whichever, Georgia will be the only state and territory in the nation that will have no state arts agency.

It is urgent that GCA hear from you today, no later than 5 p.m. There are only six days remaining in this legislative session.

By return email to me, please relate briefly how the loss of GCA grant funding (using this year’s award amount) will impact your Programs, Staff, and Audience? Will one or more of your programs have to be cut? Will staff have to be let go or furloughed? How will your audience (and the Legislator’s constituents) decline? Please give your best guess to answer these questions: numbers and brief explanations will be helpful.

GCA will collate this information each night. We will send you an email tomorrow (and every day until this legislative session is closed) asking you, your staff, your board members and patrons to take a specific action based on the collation of this data and on other information.”

While this message was sent out specifically to individuals involved in the operation of arts organizations, the incitement to contact the GCA and local representatives transcends levels of actual involvement in the arts; essentially, anyone who gives a damn about art in Georgia is encouraged to speak up.

The GCA provides a range of grants and funding opportunities for nonprofit arts organizations, individual artists, as well as acting as advocates for access to state art funding by underserved, small communities.

This is more of an art call-to-arms than a news story; there won’t be any real news until the end of the legislative session in 5 days when Georgia learns the fiscal fate of its arts agency.