Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Arts, Schmarts- Right?

South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, has vetoed over eighty items in the state's 2012-2013 budget, affecting multiple sectors like healthcare and the arts. The veto package of $57 million, while not the highest in the state's history, is certainly hefty and is set to create serious ripples across the state's economy.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing cuts is that of $3.5 million earmarked towards the South Carolina Arts Commission. With Haley's veto, it has had to immediately close its doors due to its sudden and unprecedented lack of funding. Now, the arts are often the first thing out the door when it's time to crunch the numbers, so perhaps this isn't a complete surprise. What is a shock, however, is the complete shutdown of a government agency that is tasked with the care of South Carolina's artworks, with fostering artistic communities, with promoting arts education, and with doling out grants to support and to rejuvenate the arts. Moreover, according to Ken May (the director of the Arts Commission), the revitalization of downtown Greenville is thanks to a surge in the arts community, which had received large grants from- you guessed it!- the SC Arts Commission.

Source: SC Arts Commission

Even if the arts weren't an important sector in South Carolina's economy (which is untrue, as the arts provide an estimated 78,000 jobs and $9 billion in revenue), Governor Haley's veto reveals a state (and a governor) that does not value culture. This is downright unacceptable.

Fortunately, many politicians, constituents, and arts activists feel the same way and are organizing protests- Occupy the Arts- at the South Carolina Statehouse. They hope to encourage the state Senate to overturn Haley's vetoes next week on Tuesday, July 17 during a special budgetary meeting. If the funding to the South Carolina Arts Commission isn't restored it will further the erosion of the arts and continue its devaluation. And, that would truly be an art crime.

Learn more here, here, and here.

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