Don't undermine the arts
From: Muriel Ross Griffith
County Commission on Culture
and the Arts
Editor's note: The letter is addressed to County Executive Robert R. Neall.
It is with mixed feelings that I write to you concerning the future of the arts in Anne Arundel County.
In the past year I have seen support of the arts by your office and the County Council vacillate from almost no promise of continued funding to a workable, equitable amount that gave rise to the hope that the arts in our county could survive the economic crisis, only to be plunged into an imbalanced, devastatingly restrictive budget with no experienced personnel to assist the Arts Commission in carrying out the business of distributing county and state monies to support the arts in a fair and impartial manner.
Community arts grants have always been the principal concern of the arts commission. In fiscal year 1992, 39 arts and cultural organizations received 41 grants in the amount of $107,400 (partially funded by your office at this time). These organizations represented an audience of over 198,000, mostly citizens of this county.
These grants were supported by $809,482 in kind contributions and organizational budgets of $5,971,342. They provided wholesome, family-oriented, cultural activities close to home and affordable prices; they helped the economy by providing jobs to artists and purchase of goods and services by organizations receiving grants.
Anne Arundel County citizens should be appalled and angered to find out that a recent budget decision has granted the Department of Parks and Recreation $50,000 for two ASO concerts, which amounts to $20,000 more than the amount given to be distributed among 30 some arts and cultural organizations in the county. Or that the decision reduced the sum allocated to community arts grants to $30,000, while $152,000 has been allocated by our County Council for the regional arts in Baltimore City. What sense of fairness and justice motivates our county leaders to support Baltimore City art programs at the expense of out county citizens?
The lack of knowledge in the work of the Arts Commission and the imbalance of the budget is also revealed in the projected amounts granted for the active arts in the school program and the Summer Starlight Concert Series, both of which are graciously funded, but at the expense of the community arts grants.
The elimination of the position of a full-time executive director and a part-time director of program who handled the grant process, the active arts in school program, and the summer concerts, places the responsibility of these activities -- important enough to be funded with county money -- on county personnel unfamiliar and inexperienced with the program, who already have enough work assigned to them.
It cannot be assumed that the present Art Commissioners can "pick up the slack," as most of these volunteers have full-time positions and responsibilities.
If this was a mistake on the part of your budget office or the County Council,is it too much to ask that the mistake be rectified? Could not the Arts Commission be granted the privilege of moving funds from areas in excess to the community arts grants? Would you reconsider the effect of the elimination of the program director on the work of the commission?
If these two areas are not addressed, it will result in the very thing you, Mr. Neall, were concerned with: that the funding of the arts would merely be a "handing out" of county monies without the responsibility of matching funds and generating new dollars for the arts.