Photo illustration by Melissa Hebert
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Five million dollars is chump change in a $20 billion-plus state budget. It’ll buy a few miles of highway, a new wing on an old school, an upgrade to a water-treatment facility.
But for the arts community, which is accustomed to gessoing over old canvases and recycling stage properties, it’s a handsome sum. And unfortunately $5 million was a zenith in state support for Decentralized Arts Funding and Statewide Arts Grants back in 2009. But Gov. Bobby Voucher’s vision for state support for the arts has always been to enroll it in an obscure evangelical school in a St. Helena Parish mobile home where it can learn how the Intelligent Designer made loaves of jalapeño cheese bread from a pineapple, and he’s been chipping away at DAF and SAG every year since.
In the coming fiscal year, state funding for DAF and SAG has been whittled down to about $2 million combined (out of a $25 billion budget). That’s about $500,000 less than the current budget allocation and just 40 percent of what the arts were receiving three years ago.
Arts administrators and the creatives who rely on the grants they distribute knew this was coming, but they were unable to sway legislators who possess a staggering ignorance of the concept that culture is what we do best in Louisiana and that underwriting the arts with public dollars has a huge return on investment — $7 in tax revenue for every $1 in support, according to one study. Other analyses, notably an exhaustive study by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, backs up this ratio.
Quick, name a world-famous cultural commodity in Iowa or North Dakota. There is none as far as I know, and that’s why we drive through them instead of to them on vacation. Louisiana is different, of course. The world knows about gumbo, zydeco, étouffée, jazz and boudin. And the world comes to Louisiana for them.
The cut to DAF is especially troublesome because it’s the most egalitarian means of supporting the arts through government. The name says it all: it’s decentralized. Bureaucrats in Baton Rouge don’t make the decisions about which arts/culture providers get grants. People in those communities do. People who understand the local population, are a part of it. People best equipped to fairly and effectively distribute the funding. There are nine DAF distribution hubs in the state, of which the Acadiana Center for the Arts is one. The AcA serves eight parishes.
If the state zeroed the funding for DAF and SAG, art/culture would most certainly survive in Louisiana. In urban pockets like Lafayette, New Orleans and Shreveport it would continue to thrive. But parishes like Tensas, Vernon, Washington or Winn — poorer, rural parishes where there are few or no benevolent corporate sponsors or affluent patrons — would disproportionately suffer.
And we’re not talking about diminishing their opportunities to see Mapplethorpe or Serrano exhibitions. The summer camps, the fairs/festivals, the folklife museums where local culture is preserved, celebrated and passed along will have to make the tough choices. It’s the community theater group for whom a $500 grant means keeping the air conditioning and lights running. And when that community theater folds its tent, it stops buying paint and light bulbs from the hardware store down the street. The effect ripples out beyond the loss of a two-weekend run of The Trouble with Cats.
But for some in our communities — particularly the people who are not arts consumers and evidently a majority in our Legislature — arts/culture is mistaken for a luxury of effete intellectuals unaccustomed to the simple pleasures of light beer and sitcoms.
They’re wrong, of course, and we all suffer through their ignorance.
If government allowed us to earmark our individual tax burdens, I would probably direct more of my taxes to arts/culture and less to things like rural roads and bridges, which I never use and which help subsidize the lifestyle choice — living in “the country” — of people who by necessity must drive a lot more and thereby make a disproportional contribution to air pollution.
But that’s not how taxes work, and fortunately this city, state and nation have long understood the value in supporting and nurturing arts/culture and, I’d like to think, not just because it makes sound economic sense. Arts/culture is at the heart of what’s best about our sultry rim of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s why vacationers drive to, not through, Lafayette and Louisiana.
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The vibe of the tribe done modern
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Prepare yourselves for sun
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
Due to the chaos of Mardi Gras and the weather, the entry deadline for this year's INDesign Awards has been extended by one week.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
Queen Evangline and King Gabriel ruled Tuesday night
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
IND Style does Gabriel
Newsy bits for the fam
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.