Posted by: tksellman | March 14, 2009

Cultural organizations need your help!

“The intensifying economic crisis is crushing the budgets of vital non-profits across the country, and the consequences are devastating.”—The Nation, March 11, 2009

Arts  and humanities seem always to be the first thing to go when the economy takes a nosedive, but it’s a big mistake to think these areas of our community are expendable or frivolous.

***

In my community, where the arts are a very large part of the local identity, the cultural element funding previously given to the arts and humanities as part of our comprehensive plan has been slashed by almost 80%. Imagine if your salary were cut by 80%…

Suddenly, the free community services offered by the local writers’ center through the public library are on the chopping block. Note: the writers’ center is comprised of all volunteers and an unpaid working board plus one part-time intern paid hourly who helps us keep our operations afloat.

I am one of the volunteer board members. I am now putting in 80 hours of volunteer (unpaid) time a month versus the 20 I’m used to, lamenting that, without our intern putting in 16 hours a month toward necessary work, we will all be forced to absorb even those duties in order to manage our communications AND keep afloat the popular monthly educational event we offer to the public for free.

In the meantime, that event continues to attract a standing-room-only crowd. See the disconnect?

***

People think that culture is expendable, but we simply can’t Xacto it from the budget and expect for there to be any stable architecture left in the community.

For instance:  Your town need road improvements badly. How to pay for them? Well, cut the city’s arts funding (that’s, of course, assuming that your town funds the arts.) So arts funding gets deleted from the budget.

If the local arts theater goes belly up:
• then all the local coffeehouses, bars and restaurants which normally provide before-and-after meals to theatergoers will make fewer profits. Ditto the specialty stores and boutiques that people browse before and after the show.

If these places go out of business:
• then you will find Main Street’s storefronts empty, plus your neighbors will lose jobs and your town will lose tax revenue

If there are lost jobs:
• then you will see fewer people spending money in your town, period, which can lead to even more merchants going out of business

If there is lost tax revenue:
• then your local taxes will go up in order to pay for the road improvements you so desperately need,  something the business tax base would have helped cover, had they remained in business.

Hmm. No local arts. No road improvements.

***

The National Council of Nonprofits provides a rather gloomy snapshot of the state of arts and humanities organizations across the country this year. Findings from the NEA,  in the LA Times, NPR, Business Week, and The Nation are equally despairing.

But it doesn’t have to be gloomy. If you donated just $12 (that’s a dollar a month!) to your favorite local cultural organizations (or the umbrella organization, the Arts & Humanities Council, if you have one in your town), your small donation would go a long way to help things like park districts, public libraries, historical museums, public art, writers’ centers, music guilds, local theater and the like to weather these uncertain times. But even more importantly, by keeping local cultural organizations alive, you’re actually keeping your entire community alive.

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If you’d like to help keep Jane’s Stories Press Foundation vibrant and active, please consider a donation of $12 (or more). Remember, you can write it off on your taxes!

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