State of the Art

As a recipient of IAC grants,  I receive updates from the Illinois Arts Council.  Here is the latest:

Continual Decline of Illinois State Revenues Impacts IAC Budget

On Wednesday, October 28, Governor Quinn placed an additional 3% reserve on the budgets of state agencies, including the Illinois Arts Council (IAC). This action reduces our budget from $7.8 million to about $7.5 million.  Given the continual decline of state revenues, this may well be the harbinger of more cuts to come before the end of this fiscal year. And FY2011 will be worse.

First, Governor Blagojevich arbitrarily cut the Arts Council budget by 30% in FY2008 and 2009.  As the state’s fiscal crisis worsened, the legislature reduced IAC programs support for FY2010 by 50%. The Governor then reduced the agency’s budget by another 9% in late summer and now has placed an additional 3% reserve on the remaining funds. The agency’s programs have been decimated and the staff has been reduced by 10%. The Arts Council budget has plummeted from $19.8 million (90% of which was awarded as grants) to $7.5 million in just three years – an almost 63% decrease.

Of all times, the people need the arts now. The arts buoy the soul and cheer the mind. They provide momentary respite from the crushing realities of the ongoing recession. They are a vital part of the economy; no community can be vibrant without them.

We are told small business is the backbone of our nation’s economy – and small business will anchor the recovery.  Most arts organizations and many artists are small businesses. They provide jobs and spend money in their communities for supplies, rent, utilities, and for other goods and services. They must be supported.

It is hard to know at this point the long-term consequences of this precipitous drop in support for the arts.  We do know, however, this defunding of the arts will have devastating and lasting effects on the life of the people of Illinois and, ultimately, the economic and community life of the state.

Sincerely,

Shirley R. Madigan

Chairman, Illinois Arts Council

Dismal Report about Illinois Arts Council FY2010 Budget:  IAC Exec. Dir.

Dear Applicant:

At the end of July, Chairman Madigan emailed you about the status of the Illinois Arts Council’s FY2010 budget. This email will further update you and it is not good news.

Unfortunately, our budget has been reduced more than originally expected and the total Council budget of state dollars is now $7.8 million. We have lost over 60% of our budget in just three years. This drop will be very negative for the individuals and organizations that receive funding from the Council.

As we have struggled with the devastating reality of this enormous cut, we have had to make some very tough decisions. We are suspending many programs and greatly reducing others both in number and amount of grants. In times when funds for the arts are more available (because they are never plentiful), it is less difficult to make decisions about allocations. When times are harsh and funds are scarce, every decision has negative and potentially far-reaching results.

Our process for making choices incorporated feedback we received during our strategic planning process of 2006, one in which many of you participated. As we traveled around the state and studied the results of surveys and other information gathering tools, it was very clear that you valued the operating grants as key to the health of the arts community in Illinois. We also recognize that artists are obviously the keystone to the creation of art.

With this in mind, we have suspended the following programs for FY2010:   Artstour, Literary Awards, Ethnic and Folk Arts Master/Apprentice, and Youth Employment in the Arts.  All open deadline programs which include Arts-in- Literacy, Governor’s International Arts Exchange, Short Term Artists Residency, and Special Assistance Grants, have been suspended or greatly reduced.     We use the term “suspended” advisedly – we remain hopeful that Council funding will be restored in the future and we can once again fund a broader array of grant opportunities. Our commitment to the importance of individual artists remains steadfast — we will continue to provide direct support to individual artists in some form although the Artists Fellowship program for FY2010 has been suspended.

In addition to updating you, I wanted to prepare potential FY2010 Program Grants, Partners in Excellence, and Community Arts Access awardees for the shock that is coming when award letters are opened. The grant reductions were considerable after the Blagojevich administration slashed our program budget by 30% in FY2008. But those reductions are minor when compared to what is coming as a result of an additional 50% cut in our programs by the legislature plus another 8% reduction in funds imposed by the Governor.

This year is bleak and next year, as Chairman Madigan stated, will be bleaker still without additional revenues. This year’s state budget has benefitted from one-time federal stimulus money – new dollars that will not be available in FY2011. Arts people both by nature and necessity are optimists, and while I remain optimistic that the future of states arts funding will improve, I feel I must tell it like it is.

Tough times like these only reinforce the IAC’s resolve to do everything in our power to support you in what you do for the people of the state. We will not give up in our commitment to see the arts recognized for the key role they play in a healthy and productive state, one that has the arts as a central priority. And we thank you for the incredible work you do and for the unwavering commitment you have to the arts in Illinois. We will be in contact about future developments.

Sincerely,

Terry A. Scrogum

Executive Director

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