LEH_belt_tighteningCiting state budget cuts in the last legislative session, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities announced this week that it has suspended its 2011-2012 grant cycle for five programs: Public Humanities, Teacher Institutes for Advanced Study, Outreach, the Louisiana Publishing Initiative and Documentary Film & Radio. The organization says its annual state appropriation is $1.5 million lower than it was four years ago.

According to LEH President Michael Sartisky, funding for the group, which in turn funds community-based cultural projects like documentary films and reading programs for at-risk children through grants, peaked at $2 million annually and created an economic impact of $14 million. Competitive grants issued by LEH peaked at more than $800,000; this year there will be none.

“The impact of these funding cuts does not fall solely on the LEH, but more importantly on the 605 organizations we have partnered with over the last 40 years, threatening the partnerships that have resulted in hundreds of festivals and exhibits benefiting thousands of our fellow citizens,” Sartisky writes in a press release announcing the suspension of the grant cycle.

Sartisky adds that LEH will tap into reserve finances to keep some critical partnerships viable during lean times. “Through cooperative agreements with the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Liteary Festival, the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge and the LEH-founded Poet Laureate program, we will provide reduced but sustained funding to ensure that these organizations persevere through our present challenges,” he writes. “While fully committed to this support, our ability to reach into these reserves is limited, and vulnerable to future cuts in funding.”

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