Friday, January 25, 2013

Important Update on Arts Council Funding

The following letter is from Sheyna Burt, current chair of the Prince William County Arts Council, of which Write by the Rails is a new group member:

What a difference a day makes, fellow Arts Council members.

As you may have heard, late in the day on Friday of last week word emerged that the Prince William County Executive’s budget proposal would have 1) eliminated all funding for the Arts Council, and 2) eliminated the arts grant program, transferring those funds to the Hylton Performing Arts Center for its use in reducing performance fees paid by local arts organizations.  As we worked to separate rumor from fact, we forwarded information to the County Executive about the impact of these cuts and the worthiness of our cause. 

I am delighted to inform you that the noise generated by Arts Council members and others in the community on behalf of the arts has worked … for now.  This morning the County Executive communicated to us that after a series of very productive conversations, her proposal will include NO reduction in funding for the arts, meaning that she proposes that the Arts Council and the arts grant pool be funded at the same levels as last fiscal year.  Though the grant application process likely will be subject to review, the funding will not be diverted to the Arts Center.

Part of what is amazing about this is the level of outrage that emerged from the community in the face of these cuts.  I think the message is clear: Prince William County values the presence of local artists and arts organizations.  We’re doing something right, people.

Don’t dust off the champagne quite yet, though.  The County Executive’s proposal will be formally announced to the Board of County Supervisors on February 12 and will be adopted by the Board of County Supervisors on April 23 after a series of work sessions, a community meeting, and a public hearing.  It is critical that the Arts Council organize and mobilize to make sure that the arts are protected.  Accordingly, the Board will meet briefly on February 12 to discuss strategery before breaking into committees as previously planned.  The emergency, special meeting that I was beginning to plan for February 5 mercifully is no longer necessary.

BTW, I am personally indebted to Kathy Bentz who took a major role in funneling information to the decision makers.  Without her tireless efforts, we still would be in full-blown crisis mode. 

Saving my fire and brimstone emails for a different date,
Sheyna Nicole Burt, Chair, Prince William County Arts Council

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