Slashing the State: Kiss the Arts Goodbye!

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When Gov. Jan Brewer released her proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, officials at the Arizona Commission on the Arts had to do a double-take.

The state general funding for the commission had been cut from $665,000 to zero.

"We did not see this coming," said Bob Booker, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

The commission's other income from the state, the Arizona Arts Trust Fund, is being cut in the proposed budget by $116,900, or about 8 percent of the fund's projected balance of $1.47 million for fiscal year 2012.

Although the cuts are damaging in and of themselves, they could carry the further consequence of jeopardizing the organization's federal grants, namely from the National Endowment of the Arts, said Casey Blake, communications director for the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Having slowly been on the uptick for the past few years, the federal grants for the commission stand at $932,000 for the coming fiscal year. Those funds, though, are contingent on the state maintaining its part of the bargain by not significantly cutting its own funding for the arts, a deal that would likely be broken if Brewer's proposed budget carries through, Blake said.

Booker said the loss of funding will have a devastating effect on the arts in Arizona, likely forcing the loss of programs for school children and outreach programs for neighborhoods and communities, among other yet unforeseen losses that are bound to affect the arts.

The cuts will drop Arizona to last in the country in per-capita support of the Arts, Booker said.

"We're trying to survive in a challenged society," he said.

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