Arts funding slashed

Local art galleries, such as Artspace, are facing 35 percent cuts from their state funding.
Local art galleries, such as Artspace, are facing 35 percent cuts from their state funding. Photo by Amir Sharif.

New Haven’s artists could soon find themselves living the starving artist stereotype.

Funds available to arts institutions in New Haven will be reduced by 35 percent if legislators approve Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s newest proposal to patch the state’s ballooning $466.5 million budget deficit, according to a Nov. 25 press release from the state. Connecticut has already slashed arts budgets several times since the recession hit last year, with some institutions reporting cuts higher than 60 percent.

“These are painful cuts, to be sure,” Rell acknowledged in the press release.

And those waiting on the funds — galleries, city-subsidized art programs, arts festivals — certainly agree.

The new budget proposals “hurt,” Susan Smith, the executive director of New Haven’s Creative Arts Workshop on Audubon Street, said.

“They already cut us by 66 percent,” Smith said, referring to all cuts over the past year. “What are they planning on cutting [now]?”

The reductions in art funding will result in a total savings of approximately $4.3 million, according to the press release. If passed, the proposed changes will take effect immediately, even though this year’s budget figures were finalized last July.

Since July, the governor has made two 5 percent cuts to the state budget’s arts-related items, including the funding available to the Commission on Culture Tourism — the institution that awards grants to local art projects. Rell can make these smaller cuts without the consent of the Connecticut legislation.

“It’s not so much the cuts that have been made so far that we’re worried about,” said Brett Thompson, the Connecticut Humanities Council’s director of operations and communications. “It’s really about the cuts that are to come.”

The Council, a state-based organization dedicated to providing opportunities to arts institutions and artists, receives direct funding from the state through the Commission on Tourism and Culture. But since the first set of cuts to its $3.4 million budget in September, the Council’s activities have been on hiatus.

“We are very wary about scheduling programming for which money will not be available for later,” Thompson added. The Council has since stopped working on new programming, instead focusing on financing its existing services, such as providing grants for artists and art institutions and organizing arts resources for city schools and local families.

One new project put on the shelf for now is an adult reading program the Council planned to implement this year at public libraries. Thompson said the Council might have to consider staff reductions if Rell’s 35 percent proposal passes.

Shrinking budgets aside, the state has yet to provide any of its promised funding to any arts organizations. Thompson said organizations throughout the state still have not received their first-quarter installments, due earlier in the fiscal year.

“We’re running on fumes,” Thompson said. “We’ve had to tap into reserves and savings to maintain our operations.”

Across the state, the Greater Hartford Arts Council is experiencing similar financial pains, having to reduce its staff by 25 percent over the past year. Its overall state funding has dropped by more than $20,000 over the past two years, which represents around a 20 percent drop, the Council’s chief operating officer, Rie Poirier-Campbell said.

But she added that she did not think the arts were being singled out.

“We’re all in the same boat,” Poirier-Campbell said. “Everything is being cut in the state budget — the arts, social services. It’s harmfull to us all.”

Rell called a special session of the Connecticut legislative assembly on Dec. 15 to discuss her budget proposal.

Comments

  • student

    Where is the money going? To the Middle East, in the form of gasoline payments so that all these “artists” and state bureaucrats can drive to work and to suburban strip malls for entertainment/shopping.

    If the U.S. had a 21st century transportation system, and people spent their money locally, none of these budget problems would even be an issue. Believe it or not, the U.S. is still the wealthiest nation on the planet. It is just a question of where that money is going.