Wednesday, March 30, 2011

National Endowment for the Arts at risk

Cutting arts funding could cripple programming in valley

Express Staff Writer

The National Endowment of the Arts is under fire with possible extermination in the sites of the federal government budget slashers. Illustration by Colin McCauley

The termination of the National Endowment of the Arts would have a direct bearing on Idaho.

"A state with a small population like Idaho will be far more impacted," said Michael Faison, executive director of the Idaho Commission on the Arts.

More than half the budget of the Idaho Commission on the Arts is composed of funds made possible through the National Endowment of the Arts' State and Regional Partnership Agreement. The remainder comes from matching grants from the state.

"We don't have a lot of options," Faison said. "Idahoans get more back than we put in because of federalism. We all enjoy a common good. Small communities benefit from larger cosmopolitan ones [nationwide]. That's why partnership grants mean so much to Idaho."

"The NEA is a model of what citizens want the federal government to be—small and effective."

Funding for the NEA nationwide in 2010 was $167.5 million.

The Idaho Commission on the Arts gave several grants for public programs in the arts for the fiscal year 2011 to several Wood River Valley arts organizations, including nexStage Theatre, the Wood River Arts Alliance, the Trailing of the Sheep Cultural Heritage Center, Boulder Mountain Clayworks, St. Thomas Playhouse, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Company of Fools and the city of Hailey for the Hailey Arts Commission.

According to data from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, these Wood River Valley organizations received a total of $51,566 in funding from the Idaho Commission on the Arts for 2011. The largest single grant was presented to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in the amount of $20,230 for public programs.

"We would be finished without a grant," said Claudia McCain, founding member of the Wood River Arts Alliance. "It would trash us."

Patsy Wygle, nexStage Theatre education director, said the theater could become just a rental house if funding dies.

"It's scary times," Wygle said. "We will have a huge gap in cultural programming."

Denise Simone, Company of Fools core member and former Idaho arts commissioner, said the governors under whom she has served have all been very supportive of the arts.

"We cannot rest on our laurels," Simone said, "Politicians need to know we need the arts. It's an investment we can see—it's tenfold.

"Idaho is a geographically challenged state. It's not easy to get around. The ICA make it possible—it's not an exclusive club."

Simone said the funding received from the Idaho Commission on the Arts is a good bang for the buck because it's a drop in the bucket for the number of projects it funds and the large number of people who benefit.

"Fighting for the NEA is a fight for Idaho," Faison said.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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