A sham(e), indeed.
The current state of arts funding represents an unyielding assault on Louisiana culture by JindalCo, which annually proposes draconian cuts to a/c. The proposed funding level of just under $2 million is where the governor has envisioned state support for the arts. In 2009 the AcA distributed more than $230,000 to arts/culture producers in the eight-parish Acadiana region. By 2010 that level had fallen by about $30,000. But Wuestemann says even then the AcA’s distribution of arts grants made an impact: “In 2010, we distributed $200,000 that resulted in 1,500 activities — performances or shows — and employed 1,000 local artists and were seen by 200,000 people. So, if you think about that, it’s $1 per person to have access in rural areas to cultural activities. That is a phenomenal return on investment — it feeds local economies; it produces tax money for local coffers; it produces social profit and quality of life, oftentimes creating the only access to arts and culture in local parishes.”
In the coming year Wuestemann anticipates the center will have about $120,000 to spread among the many a/c groups. Proponents of robust state funding for the arts argue that such support has a significant return on investment — 7/1 by most estimates, meaning for every dollar the state invests in arts/culture it earns $7 in tax revenue from the cultural economy, tourism primarily. Unfortunately, myopic lawmakers often see arts and culture as a luxury.
“I have a feeling that with this cut we will further weaken the cultural infrastructure of the state,” Wuestemann predicts. “And I think that’ll reduce our ability to attract tourists, our ability to keep our best and brightest talents here, and in the long run I think it will endanger our communities because in my opinion culture is not just something you do in Louisiana, it’s very much more the fabric of communities; it’s our greatest tourist attraction, one of strongest export articles and I think it feeds us financially in the state.”