Give artists a few hours to get organised, and the angry buzz rises to a crescendo! It seems that the e-mails are flying around Georgia about the likelihood that the Legislature will "zero" out the Georgia Council for the Arts. My e-mail in-box is filling up fast as everyone tries to contact anyone who is likely to protest this decision to the Senate.
The more one thinks about this choice of "economising" to close the huge budget gap in the State budget, the less impressed one becomes about the arithmetical prowess of the legislators. I understand that the overall return for every dollar invested in the arts in Georgia is threefold and counting. That would suggest a very decent rate of return that anyone would welcome in, say, the stock exchange. In a time when everyone is hoping and praying that the economy revives and people find jobs, it seems sad indeed that a very diffuse but real economical stimulus source be eliminated. The arts are not just one single industry, unlike carpet-making or insurance or many other economical activities. The arts are incredibly diverse, spread out all over the State, even in the most remote corners. They engender the most varied of activities: they bring tourists, fill restaurants and hotels, give business to gas stations, art, clothing and hardware stores. The list is as varied as one's imagination, but all these different transactions and actions help drive the economy.
To use an extreme example: imagine New York without theatres, museums, concert halls. What would that city be like? Each of those jewels in New York's crown exist because there is some form of financial assistance to supplement the direct ticket sales or entrance fees, for these can never cover all costs. Most enlightened places, cities, states or countries, recognise that the hallmark of a civilised society includes support for the many forms of art. This support is not only a good investment financially, but it is also an investment in future generations' successful education. It also ensures citizens' ability to find intellectual stimulation, joy, serenity, fascination, amusement – that can lift them out of their own lives for however brief a moment.
It is hard to understand how Georgia's legislators can be so unaware of the incredibly negative and damaging consequences of kicking out the underpinnings from Georgia's arts. I hope the angry buzz of the arts-appreciating citizens of this State gets through to the Senators and Governor and persuades them not to be utter philistines.