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Michigan’s performing arts community got hit not once, but twice this past week with news that could negatively impact an already struggling industry.
On March 29, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm issued Executive Directive No. 2007-11 that imposed a moratorium on state grant monies paid out to individuals or entities for the remainder of the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. Although the governor’s directive provides for a few exceptions, it is expected that grant monies not already issued to area arts groups will be deferred.
Such a move is not surprising, given the budget battles currently being fought in the state capitol.
But that’s not all. Rumors are currently circulating that arts funding for the next fiscal year will be either dramatically slashed – or cut altogether. That has local arts executives and artists nervous.
With a 60 percent cut in arts funding since 2002, Michigan – once fourth in the nation in per-capita spending for state arts agencies – now ranks 35th. And Michigan is only one of two Midwest states to reduce arts funding.
The advocacy group ArtServe Michigan is asking residents to contact their legislators and urge them to support not only no funding cuts this year, but an increase to next year’s budget by at least $1 million. Call ArtServe toll-free at (800) 203-9633 for details.
At the same time, Metro Detroit’s improv community was saddened to learn that Ann Arbor’s Improv Inferno will close – again – April 14. “We enjoyed performing at [Live at] PJs, but it just wasn’t the same as having our own space,” said Dan Izzo, founder of the Improv Inferno, in a recent press release. “We’re exploring other options in the area, and continue our search for a permanent solution to our lack of space. I’d like to thank everyone who came out to our shows. We’re in this because we love performing and love being part of this community. We’ll be back.”
The shuttering leaves only The Second City in Novi and Hamtramck’s Planet Ant as venues where improvisers can regularly practice their craft. “It always hits us hard when a venue that supports so many people closes,” said Second City’s Producing Artistic Director Nate DuFort. “Obviously, it’s a blow to the community.”
With five nights a week of improv, the Inferno became a second home to many of the state’s 250 improvisers. “The Inferno spoiled us, I guess,” said improviser John Hartman. “I got to perform four nights a week sometimes.”
DuFort would like to see both Second City and Planet Ant pick up some of the slack. “We’re open to doing more alternative productions here, not just sketch shows. There are things that we can bring here. [The Inferno] has a pre-packaged Sunday night they could take anywhere. I know the Planet Ant is dark on Sunday nights. If that could work out and all parties could be on board, that could potentially be exciting.”