By Ashley Easton
After a rather nasty scare, the Georgia Senate has passed next year’s budget, and has also decided to continue funding for the arts, in contrast to the House’s earlier version of the budget, which would have eliminated the Georgia Council for the Arts. Thank goodness. This move would have made Georgia the only state in the whole country not to have an Arts Council. (And it would have been a shame to see Georgia’s artists pack up and migrate to more art-friendly states like North Carolina.)
The Georgia arts community has been supportive in campaigning to preserve the GCA, and a protest outside the capital this past Monday garnered positive attention for the cause. In a press release from GCA, the organization’s Executive Director Susan Weiner communicated the agency’s gratitude: “The entire arts industry of Georgia – from for-profit filmmakers and galleries, to nonprofit museums and performance groups, to arts education providers, and to our entrepreneurial artists – is deeply grateful.”
This near catastrophe for the state and local arts community should be taken as a cautionary lesson. It definitely seems to suggest where arts funding ranks on a prioritized list for some Georgia politicians and lawmakers. Let it be warning to us all within the arts community to be prepared to be vocal, organized, and adamant in future years to preserve funding for the arts, should the years ahead bring harder times than we are seeing today.
While the GCA has passed through the eye of the needle with this decision from the Senate, it still needs to make it through the Conference Committee, where the House and Senate leaders will work cooperatively to resolve the differences between their respective budgets. Keep an eye on the local news over the next week or two.