In March, when Tom Corbett offered his first budget proposal as governor, things looked relatively good for the arts. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, our state government's principal arts-funding body, was to receive a small cut -- but compared to the decimated state education budget, say, that was something arts groups could live with.
Not so the latest proposal to come out of the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee. An amendment to its budget bill, HB 1485, would cut admnistrative and grants line items by more than 70 percent. That would reduce PCA grants to arts groups from $8.2 million to just $2.5 million. And the PCA's own administrative budget would be cut nearly in half, to $500,000.
The cuts would also affect some 4,000 classroom-days in PCA's Arts in Education programs.
Arts groups cobble together operating funds from a variety of sources, including earned revenue (like ticket sales), foundation grants and government funding. Government funding has already shrunk in recent years, along with foundation grants; meanwhile, even in the best of times, most arts groups don't live very far from insolvency.
While there are few groups for which the PCA provides a very big share of their operating funds, for some organizations the loss of even a few thousand dollars could be the difference between breaking even this season -- or being open next. And that's not to mention PCA grants to individual artists, which help many with projects they'd have a hard time completing otherwise.
The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council is urging people to contact their state representatives and voice your opposition to the new PCA cuts. The advocacy group suggests you demand restoration of the line items for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to levels Corbett recommended -- $8.262 million for grants and $895,000 for the PCA administrative line item.
If you don't know who your state rep is, find him or her at http://capwiz.com/artsusa/pa.
GPAC also encourages people to contact legislators via emailed video. GPAC will even help with your video: The group will record your message for you free, at its office Downtown, 810 Penn Ave., between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Thu., May 26.
GPAC is at 412-391-2060 and www.pittsburghartscouncilorg.