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State Arts Council reduces grants by 10.3 percent


The Maryland State Arts Council yesterday awarded $5.13 million in fiscal year 1992 grants to arts organizations -- an across-the-board cut of 10.3 percent from current funding levels.

In addition, the MSAC decided to keep 10 percent of the amount awarded in reserve until Dec. 31 in the event the governor orders reductions in its budget. Until now, the full amount awarded was paid within weeks of July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

The 10.3 percent cuts mean the MSAC will fund only up to 8 percent of the general operating budgets of qualifying arts organizations -- local arts councils, small and mid-sized arts groups and statewide organizations -- next year. In the fiscal year that comes to an end June 30, the MSAC funded 9.69 percent of the budgets of six major organizations and 83 small and mid-sized groups, very nearly reaching the 10 percent funding level that had been a longtime goal of state arts advocates.

James Backas, executive director of the MSAC, noting that arts councils in several Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states have had to absorb cuts as high as 35 percent, said, "Our 10 percent cut is really kind of a triumph. We've weathered the first year of this very bad [state financial] crisis very well."

The cuts were necessitated by a $200,000 reduction in the arts council's appropriation made this year by the General Assembly; $125,000 in program cuts made by Gov. William Donald Schaefer; and the deferral of some $265,000 of $350,000 in cuts from this year's fiscal 1991 budget. They come just a year after the General Assembly approved a $2.36 million increase in arts funding that led to a significant boost in funds funneled to arts groups.

They mean that the state's six largest organizations, which last year got $3 million, will receive $2.68; small- and mid-sized groups, which got $1.66 million, will get $1.43 million; and local arts councils, which got $953,000, will get $855,000.

Also, the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation of Maryland had its grant reduced by $11,000 to $98,670, and the Ward Foundation in Salisbury got $67,000, down $8,000.

The largest dollar reduction was in the grant to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the state's largest arts organization, which was given $1.059 million, a reduction of $100,000. The money is in addition to the final $1 million installment of a special six-year, $10 million bridge grant to the BSO. That grant was not affected by the cuts.

John Gidwitz, the BSO's executive director, said he could not immediately say what effect the cut might have on the orchestra.

Arnold Lehman, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, which had its state funds reduced by $60,000 to $525,000, said, "Obviously [the cut] will have an impact," though he said the museum would try to make up the funds from private sources.

But, he said, his "real concern is for a turnabout" in the increase in funding made last year, which he said represented a recognition of the "significance of arts and culture" throughout the state.

Rosemary Fetter, director of the Cloister's Children's Museum, whose state funds were cut $3,500 to $28,700, said, "Knowing the economic situation, we are realizing cuts are inevitable from every source.

"When all the grants are made, we may have to rethink some of our programs," she added.

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