Louisiana’s arts councils are not immune to the state’s sweeping budget cuts. Arts officials gathering in Baton Rouge yesterday for a meeting of the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts got the grim news. Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to cut nearly $2.5 million, an 83 percent reduction, from Decentralized Arts Funding. The sweeping cut would leave little more than $500,000 for DAF funding statewide. Jindal also proposed cutting statewide arts grants by 31 percent, slicing regional folklife funding in half and eliminating funding for artist fellowships.
“It would affect us dramatically,” says Acadiana Arts Council Executive Director Gerd Wuestemann. “If these cuts remain as proposed, it would kill the DAF program.”
In Acadiana, Decentralized Arts Funding is awarded through competitive grant proposals to arts organizations, city governments and non-profits in an eight-parish region. Some of the recipients of DAF grants are the Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week at Chicot State Park, Festival International, PASA, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and parks and recreation departments throughout Acadiana.
Scott Hutchenson, assistant secretary of the state Office of Cultural Development in Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu’s office, says these grants are a tremendous economic boost to every parish in the state. “The cultural economy is a $10 billion industry supporting 144,000 jobs. It’s certainly worth the investment, and the return on the investment has been significant. Our cultural stakeholders have made the industry a significant player in Louisiana’s economic health.”
Both Landrieu's office and state arts organizations have vowed to work to change the proposed budget during the legislative session. "This is a significant cut," Hutchenson says of this year's proposal.
Adds Wuestemann, "We'll do whatever we can to fight these cuts."