Eliminating Georgia Council for the Arts is apparently the "enlightened" way in which the Georgia Legislature is closing a budget gap for 2011. The budget for the arts was first slashed almost to nothing and then, yesterday, the vote passed the House to "zero" the Arts. Nothing, nada, niente - Georgia now will lead the way in the nation in NOT HAVING A STATE ARTS AGENCY. Wonderful!
Not only does this mean that the activities usually funded by the Council for the Arts will not now be supported. It means that National Endowment for the Arts funding cannot be received either - perhaps part of the assertion of the anti-Washington ethos? More importantly for the large swaths of Georgia who are not endowed with Atlanta's resources, it means that they will receive no Grassroots Arts Programme funds. These GAP monies have not been huge sums distributed to each county on a per capita basis for the past fifteen or more years, but they have been vital seed money. Countless small arts groups have been able to enrich their communities, young and old, with music, dance and theatre performances, art exhibitions and other visual art activities. The communities devised the programmes and applied for the funding on an annual, competitive basis. The arts funding was thus able to perform a magical multiplier effect at the grass roots of Georgia, and everyone benefited from a small but vital investment of tax dollars. This "cultural fertiliser" especially enriched the younger portion of each county, so important for many rural areas.
How can the level of education be raised for Georgia's youth if music, theatre, art and everything in between are defunded, eliminated and, by implication, made of no importance? Georgia is already lamentably far down the ladder of general academic achievement. In their dubious wisdom, Georgia's legislators are ensuring that not only will Georgia be the laughing stock of the nation in terms of culture; it will also slip further down the ranking of student achievement. Apparently legislators do not understand the vital inter-connectedness of the arts and learning about maths, geometry, literature, science....
The faint remaining hope of reversing this amazingly sad decision basically rests on Governor Perdue's shoulders. Alas, I am not holding my breath.
Welcome to Georgia, y'all! Don't count on finding a thriving cultural scene in Georgia.