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Dance funding forecast: cloudy with sunny patches.

ON JUNE 17, the United States House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 241 to 185, an amendment to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts by $10 million, to a $131 million total for the FY2005 budget. If the Senate, as expected, supports the amendment, the additional money will provide more funds for special initiatives and, of urgent importance, impoverished local and state arts organizations across the country.

That is cause for celebration, except perhaps in Philadelphia, where on the same day, in the latest salvo in a battle between Mayor John Street and the City Council over next year's budget, the city's Office of Arts and Culture announced that it would close June 30.

Gloom in Philadelphia

Last Memorial Day, Street, confronted with a $227 million shortfall next year, slashed $4.4 million from Philadelphia's arts budget, which included elimination of the Arts and Culture Office. In 2004 this office funded twenty-three dance organizations, among them the Pennsylvania Ballet and Philadanco. According to Peggy Amsterdam, Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, an arts advocacy group, and former executive director of the Pennsylvania State Arts Commission, "Everyone--banks, hotels--rallied behind us," and the city council restored the arts budget.

It took the mayor a week to veto the entire budget on June 10, and while at press time the council had proposed a second amended budget mitigating without fully restoring the original cuts to arts and culture, arts supporters were not sanguine about its approval. As Amsterdam said, these cuts show "a disregard for the role that arts and culture play in the quality of life, economic development, cultural tourism, and education."

On the other side of the country, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom cut 25 percent of the city's support to such major arts organizations as the San Francisco Ballet, Symphony, Opera, and Museum of Modern Art in an effort to cope with that city's $325 million deficit. And a proposed merger of the San Francisco Arts Commission with Grants for the Arts (which awards funds based on a company's economic impact on the city) made arts advocates even more nervous.

At least San Francisco has city arts agencies, though the budget of the California Arts Council has been reduced to $1 million--to serve a 35-million population. Kansas City in Missouri has never had a city funding agency. According to Jeffrey Bentley, executive director of Kansas City Ballet, while the Missouri State Arts Council received nothing from the legislature for the past two years, it continues to function on a much reduced level. It uses funds from the Missouri Cultural Trust, which was originally intended to be a public/private matching program to support endowment building and capital campaigns. The legislature, however, authorized a $500,000 line item for the council for 2005 in order to get the matching funds from the NEA. Nevertheless, the KCB has succeeded in raising $17.1 million in private and corporate funding for its new building, opening in the fall of 2005.

A Ray of Hope in the West

In Oregon, a portion of government arts funding has been restored by having the newly established Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Arts Commission share operations. Like many state agencies around the country, the OAC was threatened with extinction last year. But by streamlining operations, the legislature was persuaded to reduce its budget from $1.2 million to $600,000. While the Cultural Trust, which enraged many in the dance community by not funding a single dance organization in its first granting round last year, maintains a separate board, the OAC is the umbrella organization. However NEA matching funds have been preserved, and according to Riley Grannan, managing director of the Eugene Ballet, who is on a task force regarding the future of the arts commission, $260,000 is available for distribution statewide this year.

Under Mayor Vera Katz, who in her youth studied with Martha Graham, Portland has been as supportive of the arts as possible in extremely hard economic times--Oregon has the second highest unemployment rate in the country. Oregon Ballet Theatre three years ago was awarded a grant of $1 million from the city, receiving the last of three payments last year. "It's hard to replace significant city funding," Beth Barbre, company managing director says. OBT's $4.2 million budget does not depend on the NEA, from which it has not received grants in several years, and like the Eugene Ballet, received nothing from the Cultural Trust. "We are engaged in a new initiative of fundraising in the private sector," Barbre said.
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Title Annotation:Dance Matters
Author:West, Martha Ullman
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2004
Previous Article:Making dances together.
Next Article:Beyond performance: alternative careers in dance.

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