Walter Pierce

Cultural agencies united in opposition to funding phase-out

by Walter Pierce

Members of the Lafayette arts community are not taking the introductory ordinance to phase out funding for non-profits lying down, but say they plan a low-key response at Tuesday’s council meeting. Representatives from the Acadiana Arts Council, the Acadiana Symphony, Cité des Arts and the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana met on Monday to develop a strategy for addressing the threat. “We’ll have one spokesperson who says very little, other than that we oppose the ordinance,” says Jackie Lyle, PASA’s executive director, “and asks the council and the administration to develop a public policy that addresses the need for cultural entertainment, for local citizens who are in need, and that preserves discretionary income in local coffers.” Plenty of supporters, however, do plan to fill out blue cards expressing their support for the arts community’s position, although they do not plan to address the council.

Acadiana Center for Arts Executive Director Gerd Wuestemann will be the point man Tuesday night on behalf of the arts community. He says he plans a five-minute presentation. “I’ve heard the argument time and again,” Wuestemann says, “that organizations such as ours should learn to stand on their own legs. We very much stand on our own legs. We operate roughly on a $1.5 million budget. Operations like ours around the world are only feasible through support from the private sector, sponsorships, patronage, memberhips and ticket sales, but they also rely on public support. I believe that our city clearly recognizes this; the state has recognized it and recognized the importance of Lafayette as a cultural center by allocating $15 million toward construction of our new performing arts facility. While we’re standing on our own legs and raising an extraordinary amount of money on our own, public support through city government — especially in an economic climate such as this — is of the essence.”

In an ironic twist, the council's vote on the introductory ordinance to phase out external agency funding follows a 4 p.m. reception at City Hall in which City-Parish President Joey Durel will proclaim this the Year of the Symphony, in acknowledgment of the Acadiana Symphony’s 25th anniversary. The ASO received $10,068 this fiscal year in direct funding from Lafayette Consolidated Government.