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Philly Arts Groups Protest Cuts

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Philly Arts Groups Protest Cuts

By Joann Loviglio

Associated Press

April 23, 2004

PHILADELPHIA -- Mayor John Street's proposed slashing of funds to arts and culture groups to close a projected $227 million budget gap will actually reduce tax revenue, erode tourist spending and cost jobs, arts officials and City Council members said Tuesday.

Anne d'Harnoncourt, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said Street's proposal to eliminate all of the world-renowned museum's funding could force it to reduce the number of days it's open, eliminate programs that serve 75,000 school children annually, and ruin its ability to lure the blockbuster shows that generate millions of dollars and priceless prestige to the city.

"This cut would be devastating," she told City Council members, her voice thick with emotion. "It would seriously impair our ability to operate."

Street has proposed cutting arts spending for fiscal year 2005 by $4.4 million - including zero funding for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Atwater Kent Museum of city history, which this year received $2.25 million and $292,000, respectively.

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, which supports more than 220 nonprofit groups ranging from galleries to after-school art classes, would have its funding sliced 58 percent, to $1 million, under Street's proposal. Also facing the budget ax are the African American Museum, the Greater Philadelphia Film Office and the Avenue of the Arts theater district.

Opponents of the cuts contend that arts and culture contribute to residents' quality of life and do the necessary work of attracting and retaining businesses and young professionals. They also say that money for the arts provides a handsome return on investment.

The city now spends just 12 cents per $100 on the city's arts and cultural sector, which in turn supports 11,000 jobs, generates more than $560 million in regional spending and returns $6.5 million in city tax revenue, according to a 1998 Pennsylvania Economy League study.

Council members in attendance Tuesday conceded that the budget crisis was real but appeared to agree that some level of arts funding should be restored. Councilman Michael Nutter compared the Philadelphia Museum of Art's zero-funding to "a mortal sin," particularly in light of the city's nearly $400 million contribution to its two new sports stadiums.

"That $4 million is a drop in the bucket. ... We need to get out priorities in order," said Councilman James Kenney, adding that the mayor's office shows a 15 percent budget increase in Street's 2005 spending plan.

Council members Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Frank DiCicco, both Democrats, and Jack Kelly, a Republican, announced Monday that they were assembling a bipartisan coalition to restore at least 90 percent of the arts cuts and that they were "building a majority" of the 17 council members on board.

The legislators said their plan would more evenly distribute the budget cuts, which they said unfairly targeted cultural organizations, among city departments. They haven't determined what should instead be cut.

Even people who are far more interested in the Phillies than the Fauves - Kelly himself acknowledged that he falls in that category - should oppose arts cuts for economic reasons, he said.

More testimony from other cultural groups and a rally for the arts are scheduled for early next month.

A Street spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment.

Pennsylvania Economy League report: http://www.peleast.org/images/Arts_report.pdf

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Copyright © 2004, Musical America

http://www.musicalamerica.com/news/printar...arc=0&cookies=1

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