Mary Tutwiler

Arts administrators plan to appeal to Legislature today

by Mary Tutwiler

Directors of every arts council and sizable arts organization statewide are gathering today as the House Appropriations Committee of the Louisiana Legislature convenes at 9 a.m. Deep cuts to arts funding, proposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, are expected to be on the agenda, and arts administrators are looking to the Legislature for help. “We are preparing for a pretty solid fight for the next couple of months while the budget is being discussed,” says Acadiana Arts Council Executive Director Gerd Wuestemann.

Last week, the arts community got the devastating news that the governor’s office is proposing to cut nearly $2.5 million, an 83 percent reduction, from Decentralized Arts Funding. The sweeping cut would leave little more than $500,000 for DAF statewide. Jindal also wants to cut statewide arts grants by 31 percent, slicing regional folklife funding in half and eliminating funding for artist fellowships.

The cuts are so deep that they will, for all practical purposes, eliminate the DAF programs, which the state has been building since the mid-1990s. Tourism is the state’s second largest economic engine, after energy. DAF funding helps support all sorts of programs, from huge events like Lafayette’s Festival International to arts workshops at small town libraries and rural parks and recreation summer camps. Arts administrators at every level are baffled by the disproportionate depth of the cuts — 83 percent compared to a 12.7 percent proposed cut from a total state budget of $12.810 billion.

The legislative hearing, currently in progress, can be accessed live here.