Arts funding dodges bullet

By Michelle Roberts

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A state arts commission that funds programs at the UA and throughout Arizona got a reprieve Tuesday from legislation that could have eliminated over a third of its funding.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts is the state agency that distributes over $2 million of government funding to various art programs statewide. Twenty-five percent of their funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, 40 percent by the state legislature appropriations and 35 percent by the Arizona Arts Trust Fund.

Legislation drafted by Rep. Barry Wong, R-Dist. 18, would have eliminated the funding provided by the Arizona Arts Trust Fund. The trust fund money currently comes through a $15 portion of the $45 corporation commission fee charged to Arizona businesses.

Bills that originate in the House or the Senate must be heard by committees this week or they cannot be introduced this session. Because the bill came through the wrong committee, it must be held and will not make it up for vote this session.

The commission's executive director, Shelley Cohn, said she believes the commission's Arts Trust Fund money is safe this year.

But she also said that the commission is concerned about the 40 percent of their budget that comes from a legislative appropriation. Cohn said they still do not know whether the legislature will cut this portion of their budget. The state legislature is scheduled to vote on the budget sometime in June.

Several programs at the university could be affected by the proposed cuts, because they receive funding from the arts commission.

Kenneth Foster, UA Office of Cultural Affairs director, said the office received about $4,000 to bring in Australian Aboriginal dancers and about $4,500 to subsidize tickets for school children.

"You have kids growing up with very little or no exposure to the arts if the funding goes away," Foster said.

Music professor Dan Asia said the arts commission is matching funds to help pay for the Meet the Composer Program. The program, which is directed by Asia, brings major composers to speak at the university. Asia said the program is far more effective with the commission funding than it could be without.

Bruce Hilpert, curator of public programming at the State Museum, said the museum got its first grant from the arts commission this year. With the money, the museum is hosting a series of dance performances by children from the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache Tribe.

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