Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Arts group seeks more city funds

With 2004 deficit projected at $18 million, council leery

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati arts leaders are asking city leaders to change the funding formula for arts programming, which would lead to an 85 percent increase in arts allocations by 2004.

        In 1997, Cincinnati City Council asked the Cincinnati Arts Allocation Committee to review the city's arts funding and policies. That study, released Tuesday, found Cincinnati is contributing less to arts than other major cities.

        “Our arts need more sup port,” said Lois Shegog, chairwoman of the arts committee. The arts are a reflection of the city's viability and culture, and Cincinnati needs to contribute more, she added.

        The panel wants to gradually boost arts funding from $403,740 this year, or 0.14 percent of the city's general fund, to $743,000 in 2004, or 0.22 percent of the general fund. The goal is to raise the funding formula to 0.26 percent of the general fund by 2006.

        In 1998, Cincinnati allocat ed about about $393,890 to the arts. That same year, Charlotte, N.C., with a similar population, spent about $2.2 million on the arts. St. Louis put in $1.4 million.

        The city must recognize that the arts can spur economic development, said Tom Law, a documentary filmmaker. According to the study, the 79 local cultural and arts organizations surveyed support about 3,000 jobs and spend about $157 million.

        “Before the bars and restaurants, arts groups were investing in Main Street,” said Mr. Law, in reference to the developing entertainment district.

        The increase request does not come at an opportune time. City Manager John Shirey has told council members the city may have an $18 million deficit in 2004. He has asked city departments to cut their budgets.

        The arts panel presented its study to City Council's finance committee Tuesday morning. The council members present all said they supported the arts, but a few said the study raises questions.

        What the group's presentation downplayed, Councilman Phil Heimlich said, is the city's total arts support. Along with the $403,740 being spent on arts programming this year, the city has also contributed to a number of other projects, including $232,270 for the Arts Consortium of Cincinnati, $100,000 for Music Hall operating support and $120,000 for the Emery Theatre renovation.

        In all, the city is spending $1.15 million on arts-related programs in 1999, he said.

        “Council should look at this, considering our overall arts support,” Mr. Heimlich said.

        The study and recommendation include a number of other changes besides funding percentages. It suggests the city develop a competitive grant program for mid-sized arts groups and a competitive arts fellowship program. The goal is to stimulate professional development among artists as well as helping growing arts groups stabilize, Ms. Shegog said.

        The council committee took no action on the study's recommendations.

        Members suggested the arts panel compare Cincinnati's contribution to more cities and to look at ways the city's overall arts support may be used by the end of 2000, when city leaders work on the 2001-02 budget.


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