Threat of Budget Cuts Put Arts Programs in JeopardyBy Daniel Cherry | Published 16 Feb 2012 08:01pm |
Mississippi is honoring some of the state's most important contributors to the arts, but budget cuts have some art programs on the chopping block. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how advocates say resilience is the key in these tough times.
At the Governor's Arts Awards yesterday, Mississippi celebrated some of it's most renowned educators, artists and musicians, but some see a rocky road ahead. Governor Phil Bryant recommended a 15 percent cut to the Arts Commission in his budget proposal. Malcom White the Executive Director of the Arts Commission, says they're adapting to weather the storm.
"We are in the age of austerity. Money is very tight. The Mississippi Arts Commission has been very aggressive in creating an endowment. We've been raising money in the private sector. I hope that someday we'll be able to offset cuts and in the good years have reserves, just like the state budget."
The Legislative Budget Office proposal was a little more merciful with a nearly 6 percent cut. The argument is: If Mississippi has to tighten its belt, non essential programs should be the first to go. Senator John Horhn doesn't agree. He says the Arts Commission gets only about a million and a half dollars as it is.
"I think this is one of those agencies that ought to be exempt from the budgetary knife because for the amount of money we put into it, it's able to deliver a big bang for the buck."
For those promoting the arts like Althea Jerome of Hattiesburg their jobs could get a bit more difficult. She won this year's award for Arts in Education for her 35 year career teaching music to children. She says she's optimistic advocates and educators care enough about the arts to keep pressing forward.
"For me the hope of knowing that there are plenty of teachers out there in our classrooms in Mississippi who do love the arts. Continuing to work with those teachers so they will have the tools that they need to introduce the arts to their students."
There's no way to know for sure how big, if any, the cuts to arts programs will be until the full legislature votes on a budget later this year.
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