Monday, February 22, 2010

Virginia Commission for the Arts faces elimination by 2012

 The Virginia Commission for the Arts is a state agency that provides operational support for arts organizations and individual artists through a competitive granting process.

In light of Sunday's House Appropriations Committee vote to cut next year's funding by 50% and eliminate the agency by 2012, Virginians for the Arts, an advocacy group, calls for action.

Here's my letter to my delegate. I wrote a different one to the Times-Dispatch; may post it later.
Dear Delegate McClellan,
I have spent the past year being thankful that I only have to make tough money decisions that affect my own family, not the whole nation or the state, and I continue to repect the hard work of you and other elected officials who have to make these decisions.
Of course nobody wants to see any valued programs shrink or disappear, but I must speak up in particular for the Virginia Commission for the Arts, because I deeply believe that art both shapes and reflects our humanity. The arts are our common heritage and inheritance, not a luxury, and should be accessible to everyone.
VCA funding is crucial for the operation and programs of hundreds of arts organizations and civic entities around the state. The mission of most, if not all, of these organizations includes making the arts accessible to all people, regardless of income, background or education.
For example, Richmond Shakespeare, for which I am a volunteer, takes its educational workshops and performances to schools. Fees paid by students and schools more or less cover the cost of the workshop, but VCA funding helps support the position of Director of Education--one of only 2 full-time positions in Richmond Shakespeare--allowing her to create these programs, train the actor-teachers who lead them, and reach out to new schools and audiences, particularly in underserved populations. Without her, there likely would be no educational arm of Richmond Shakespeare.
To make matters worse, decimated funding for schools means arts education is in serious jeopardy. If the VCA is axed, arts organizations that could help fill in these gaps will not be able to offer affordable programs for students.
I could go on and on: for example, about how the economic impact of the arts is not just immedate (someone coming to a Richmond Shakespeare play supports the local actors and stage crew, the concessions workers, the building cleaning staff, the parking lot attendant), but also long-term, because the presence of vibrant, diverse, high-quality arts programs attracts businesses and residents and increases overall civic engagement.
Please take all these factors into account as you work on Virginia's budget. I ask you to preserve the existence of the Virginia Commission for the Arts and urge your colleagues to do the same.
Thank you,
Angela Lehman-Rios

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