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Friday, September 24, 2010

A Government Agency Turns Out The Lights: Cincinnati Arts Allocation Committe On 'Inactive Status'

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The photo is by Barbara Gamboa, who was a recipient of a city arts grant.  There won't be any more like it.  The Cincinnati Arts Allocation Committee, a 9-member body that made funding recommendations for financial aid to local artists, shut itself down this week.  There is no cash to hand out -- a casualty of the Great Recession and economic upheavals that are stressing governments and businesses in this 21st Century.  A memo from Cincinnati Community Development director Michael L. Cervay says the panel has been left with no formal function to fulfill:

"The specific arts programs were not funded in the City's 2010 General Fund Budget.  Current arts programs are currently in the closeout phase from previous years funding.  In the absence of new funds, the CAAC met from January to July 2010 to discuss options and opportunities that might utilize its expertise and interests in sustaining the arts community.  No new role has been identified that fit the members' collective interests and no new funding streams have been identified to align with the [panel's] role as defined by Council."

That means pull the plug.  It is a downer to live in a community where the arts are deemed second class, or no class in the grand scheme of civic undertakings.  How many of us have travelled to Paris or Rome or Vienna to ogle and soak up the arts, ancient and modern?  In Cincinnati, we can afford to purchase football fields for billionaires but not small grants for those who add and contribute to cultural endeavors.  There are paintings in caves from prehistory.  They are breathtakingly striking. They are among the oldest and most enduring of human endeavors.  Yet, in 2010 -- when we are civilized -- we have no abilty to support for the arts.  I wonder what the cavemen would think about that.  From the city's website, here's some history about the arts program that is now gone:

"Since 1989, the City of Cincinanati’s arts grant programs have provided project and operating support to emerging and established Cincinnati-based artists and nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. The grant programs fund activities in all artistic disciplines and provide partial support to arts and cultural organizations of varying sizes, missions, and audiences. City arts grants help enable artists and arts and cultural organizations to provide services in Cincinnati and to contribute to the city’s economy, quality of life, and neighborhood vitality. The grants also help make the arts more accessible to Cincinnati residents. Funded activities include the creation and production of works of art; visual art, science, and history exhibitions; theater, opera, and dance productions; literary arts projects; public television and public radio programming; music concerts and festivals; arts education programs; summer arts camps for youth; and hands-on programs for artists with disabilities.  Grant recipients match City grant monies with non-City funds and in-kind contributions and provide at least one grant-related public presentation in the Cincinnati city limits during the grant period.

"In the twenty-one years from 1989 to 2009, the City’s competitive grant programs for artists and small arts organizations have funded 320 artist grants and 420 organization grants totaling over $2 million. During the same period, grants to organizations funded under the Major Arts and Cultural Organization Grant Program totaled over $5.3 million. (Note: The City’s 2007 and 2008 arts organization grant programs were funded by an $800,000 donation from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation in partnership with the Fine Arts Fund.)"

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