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.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Get a map to your doctor’s office, check the status of a claim and more with Blue Cross’ new iPhone/Ipad app.
“Shell’s abrupt decision to cancel its North American GTL project just 10 weeks after concluding a multi-year site-selection process is obviously very disappointing news,” LED Secretary Stephen Moret tells Daily Report.
Giveaways and goodies at Martial
The quirky songwriter showcase takes over the stage at Blue Moon Saloon Saturday night for a final go-round with all-new performers.
JV offers two-day deal
Learning to let go
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Cocktails and deals for the holidays
New York Times best-selling author talks Hollywood, the death penalty and the pitfalls of runaway campaign spending.
NOLA Bowl ready with tribal prints
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 05, 2013.
Hushed plans for a commercial development along the Louisiana Avenue portion of the Holy Rosary campus put the future of longtime tenant EarthShare Gardens in jeopardy.
If a recent advertisement in The Daily Advertiser is any indication, speculation the local daily will be implementing the “Butterfly Project” could be more of a reality than the Gannett-owned paper’s top execs are willing to admit.
Mettenberger injured his left knee while unloading a 32-yard completion in the fourth quarter of No. 14 LSU's 31-27 victory over Arkansas last Friday, and LSU coach Les Miles confirmed the severity of the injury on Wednesday.
A majority of the blocks in Proposed Sale 225 are subject to revenue sharing under the Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which provides that the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas share in 37.5 percent of the bonus payments.
NOLA bowl pieces with volume