Sports. Pop culture. Ideology. Yes, I do have an opinion on just about everything -- and I'm not afraid to share it with anyone.
Not even into her first full week, new South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is ready to end any and all state funding for the arts, which would kill many, many arts programs in the state, including closing the door on ETV. Here’s a story that will appear in Friday’s edition of the (Rock Hill) Herald:
Local artists and arts organizations will feel the sting if the state Legislature adopts Gov. Nikki Haley’s proposal to eliminate state funding for the arts.
Haley recommends eliminating all state funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission and ETV which provides public television and radio programming.
For the arts commission, losing $2.3 million from the state would mean closing the doors, which have been open since 1967, said executive director Ken May.
If that happens, the Arts Council of York County will lose more than $20,000 in state and federal funding – that’s about 6 percent of the budget, said Debra Heintz, the arts council’s executive director.
State funding to the arts council has been dwindling, Heintz said. Fifteen years ago, the council received $50,000 from the commission. Last year, it received $23,000.
But arts organizations and nonprofits are “already operating on a shoestring budget,” said Heintz, uncertain how the council – with it’s five employees running three venues and all programming –would absorb the cuts should the come.
Haley’s proposal – delivered in her first State of the State address Tuesday night at the Statehouse in Columbia – comes as no surprise to Heintz or May.
“We’ve anticipated that this is a likely point of view the governor would have, and we understand that this state is facing big challenges,” May said.
But cutting the arts, while an easy choice, might not be the best or most informed choice, said Heintz.
The arts industry accounts for $7 million in the local economy and 210 full-time jobs in York County, according to an economic impact study conducted by the county arts council.
Events funded by the arts council last year attracted 169,000 attendees from 156 cities, 32 states and four countries, and those visitors often spend money in local restaurants, hotels and other businesses, Heintz said.
Eliminating – instead of trimming – the state arts commission budget would eliminate anyone “at the state level looking at a big part of our economy,” May said.
The arts feed innovation in both the public and private sectors, creating an “ecology” which drives the economy, he said.
The arts commission also helps ensure that all people have equal access to the arts, not just “city dwellers” or the wealthy, May said. Commission programs fuel arts curriculum in schools; provide professional development for artists; and help organizations and artists establish credibility that helps them earn other patrons and donors, May said.
Since 2005, the arts commission has invested $1.8 milllion to support the arts in York County.
The funding went to the arts council and other groups such as the Rock Hill Community Theatre and the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project. The commission also has provided funding and support for schools, particularly Northside Elementary School of the Arts in Rock Hill and the Clover school district.
“It’s worthy, it’s important and it’s necessary to have someone paying attention at the state level,” May said.
Local legislators weigh in
The proposed cuts will help the state “get back to core functions of government,” state representatives said.
“The arts are a vital part of the community,” said state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill. But they’re less important when trying to fund “medicine for children and the Medicaid program, … law enforcement – the basic needs that the government provides,” he said.
“Art is nice, but it’s an elective,” said Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill. He hopes the Legislature will find ways to incorporate arts into existing programming and fund them with grants instead of state money.
State Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, and Norman said they hope the private sector will increase its support of arts organizations.