Area governments boost support for arts and sciences


Suburban government support for cultural and scientific institutions increased more than 40 percent in the last year but still lags far behind the funding provided by Baltimore city, according to figures compiled by the Baltimore Regional Council of Governments.

The region's five suburban jurisdictions are providing a total of $3.4 million to area arts and science museums and cultural organizations in the current fiscal year, up from $2.4 million a year ago, the council's figures show. That amounts to 15/100ths of 1 percent of the annual operating budgets in these jurisdictions, up from 11/100ths of 1 percent last year.

In contrast, Baltimore city is providing $12.7 million for cultural and scientific institutions, or nearly 8/10ths of 1 percent of its annual operating budget, an increase of nearly half a million dollars over last year.

The council -- which adopted a resolution in January recommending that each suburban jurisdiction eventually allocate at least 3/10ths of 1 percent of its operating budget to culture, with an interim goal of half that amount -- hailed the increase in suburban funding.

"We're very pleased with the figures. We think they're positive," said Guy W. Hager, executive director of the council, a voluntary planning and policy-making organization that includes representatives of all area governments.

Suburban and city officials also praised the increased suburban contribution.

"I'd say the progress is really significant," said Keren Dement, executive director of the Anne Arundel County Commission on Culture and the Arts and chairwoman of the Maryland State Arts Council. "If we can continue to move in a thoughtful way, we have an unbelievable opportunity to create a model regional cultural environment."

"I'm pleased with the responses of our neighbors," said Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke. "I think it's a good first step."

The figures -- contained in the council's biennial report on regional economic indicators -- showed that all five suburban jurisdictions increased their allocations to cultural and scientific institutions.

The largest dollar increases among the suburban governments were registered by Anne Arundel County, up $438,000; Baltimore County, up $340,000; and Carroll County, up $110,000. Harford County increased its support from $8,000 to $64,000, while Howard County was up from $92,000 to $160,000.

Of the five jurisdictions, only Carroll County has reached the goal of at least 3/10th of 1 percent of its annual operating budget given to arts funding. Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties have reached the interim goal of half that amount, while Harford and Howard counties are far below it.

About one-third of the total increase in suburban support for the arts, or $332,000, went to eight large institutions with broad regional appeal that are located in the city: The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Baltimore Opera, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Zoo, Center Stage, the Maryland Science Center, the National Aquarium and the Walters Art Gallery. The remainder went to smaller institutions in each jurisdiction, such as the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.

The council's resolution recommending an increase in suburban support offered no guidelines on how the money should be allocated between major and community-based organizations but said all institutions should be allowed to continue to apply for grants on a competitive basis.

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