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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
US arts face 'devastating' cuts

By Darren Waters
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The amount of public money given to the arts in the United States is facing "devastating" cuts.

Publicly-funded arts organisations across the US are facing potential cuts of $100m (69m) from coffers this year, as state governments slash budgets in order to save costs.

Conductor Itzhak Perlman
Detroit's Symphony is feeling the pinch
The cuts are being seen as the biggest test of US Government commitment to the arts for more than a decade.

In a statement, Jonathan Katz, chief executive of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), said the cuts were the result of a "national crisis in state budgets".

He said: "In some states the impact on state arts agency funding has been devastating."

In the last 12 months, 42 states have cut their funding to the arts, wiping 13% off the total amount of funds available.

But organisations are bracing themselves for an even more difficult 12 months ahead.

The states of New Jersey and Arizona were proposing to cut their arts budgets entirely for 2004, while other states, such as Missouri, Michigan, California and Colorado are considering cuts of between 15% and 75%.

Arts funding
The arts receive $354m (214m) a year from the different US states
The US federal government supplies an extra $116m (70m) a year
The funding is equivalent to $1.67 (1) per person
In contrast: The arts in England receive 335m a year
The funding is equivalent to 6.70 per person
In New York state, where more money is spent on publicly-funded arts than in any other state, Governor George Pataki has proposed to cut the state's arts budget by 15%.

To compound the problem, the mayor of the city, Michael Bloomberg, recently announced revised cuts in arts funding.

A report by arts administrators in New York said the cuts could force the closure of some galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It added that the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens would have to shut it doors two days a week.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Museum told BBC News Online it could not speculate on the impact of any proposed cut as discussions were ongoing, but said it was looking at "a multi-million dollar cut" in its grant.

What the government is saying right now is that culture is not important for us to fund
Doug McLennan, Arts Journal
"The level of arts funding is much lower than it was four years ago," he said.

But Mr Katz denied reports that the cuts meant a "wholesale abandonment of state support for the arts".

He said: "Eliminating or radically reducing state arts agency budgets continues to be an extreme action falling outside the national norm."

But there are real fears that nationwide budget cuts will affect education programs, arts projects and museums and galleries.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
The New York Met may have to shut galleries
A statement on the The Walt Whitman Center in New Jersey says of budget cuts in the state: "This will cripple arts in our state and see jobs lost not only in the arts, but also in a myriad of support industries."

The situation is made much worse for many arts organisations as it follows a decade of funding growth.

Between 1993 and 2001, arts funding rose from $211m to $446m.

But the United States relies heavily on corporate and individual donations for most of its arts funding.

Proposed budget cuts
Oregon 20%
California 36%
Missouri 75%
New York 15%
Minnesota 32%
Wisconsin 10%
Michigan 50%
Virginia 45%
Doug McLennan, the editor of Seattle-based Arts Journal.com, said the cuts could do more symbolic damage than dollar damage.

"The amount of arts funding is still higher than it was 10 years ago. There is a view that this is a course correction that the funding was over-inflated over the last decade.

"The government cuts are not catastrophic in themselves but with endowments and corporate donations down it is more serious.

"What the government is saying right now is that culture is not important for us to fund."

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