ArtServe Michigan, an arts advocacy group, is planning a rally on April 18 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the State Capitol to protest cuts in the budget they say are impacting arts agencies all over the state. The event is titled “Invest in Michigan – Invest in the Arts.”
Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued an executive order April 4 that froze all nonessential grants, including arts grants. The order freezes $7.5 million in grant funds. In addition, the Senate has floated a proposal to cut arts grant funding an additional $3.6 million in the next fiscal year, effectively reducing the funding from its current level of $10.1 million.
Aric Liljegrin, communications director for ArtServe, says if the Senate approves the $3.6 million cut, the state will have effectively cut arts funding by 60 percent over the last five years.
“When we speak of the arts we are speaking about the type of unique, creative industry we need in Michigan and one that is currently providing 108,000 jobs statewide,” says Neeta Delaney, CEO and President of ArtServe. “It is an industry that is proven to attract entrepreneurs, businesses and the workforce that fuels them while promising a high return on investment. Given the small area of the State budget it occupies, we should expect to see strategic investment in the arts rather than cuts that can do little to remedy Michigan’s financial situation and can only result in harming our State’s future potential.”
“No one knows what will happen with grants,” says Leslie Donaldson the executive director of the Lansing Council for the Arts, a regional regranting agency for the state. “You have to plan for anything at this point.”
Donaldson says the freeze will impact dozens of small arts agencies, including the All-of-Us-Express Children’s theatre, The Vermontville Players, and others.
“The bigger institutions may be impacted,” she says. “It’s the smaller groups we’re worried about.”
The rally, Donaldson and others say is important. “We need people to come out and support the arts. We need them to contact their legislators on this.”
“Those of us who understand the connection between quality of life and our ability to recapture the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that was once our State’s hallmark have a responsibility to speak up,” Delaney says.
Arts grants support everything from ballets, to theatre productions, to art displays and more. According to Donaldson, each year arts and cultural activities account for $2 billion and cultural tourism brings in additional $65.7 million dollars in state revenues.
According to ArtServe, a taxpayer is spending $1.07 to find the arts right now. That level of funding has put Michigan 34th amongst states, down from 4th just five years ago.