BOISE — It’s helped pay for summer theater work in Sun Valley and arts outreach in Twin Falls.
Potential state budget cuts don’t just impact the big-ticket items like education and health and welfare services. They also can reach into the realm of arts and culture.
The Idaho Commission on the Arts gave its budget presentation on Friday to the Legislature’s budget-writing committee. With fewer than 10 full-time employees, the commission is among the smallest of Idaho’s state agencies.
“As we all cope with a slow financial recovery, the commission faces the future with tempered optimism and determination regarding the role of the arts,” said Michael Faison, executive director of the commission. “Although culture cannot compete with national or social security, we do need to sustain our cultural traditions.”
The commission’s state funding, including what’s proposed for the upcoming fiscal year, has dropped by 27 percent since 2008. As a result, the agency’s reliance on dollars from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, has reached 56 percent of its total budget.
Its proposed fiscal year 2012 budget of $1.77 million, including state and federal funding, is 1.7 percent above this year’s budget. The cut in state dollars is 3.6 percent, or $25,800.
The commission would likely award fewer grants if state funding for the upcoming year’s budget is cut by 10 percent, Faison told lawmakers when asked about the potential impact of a deeper cut.
In the Magic Valley, current grants include $6,300 to St. Thomas Playhouse in Sun Valley for a summer theater project, and $10,085 to the College of Southern Idaho and Magic Valley Arts Council for five arts outreach programs for 4,000 area students in grades 4-12.
Faison said the commission has made efforts to provide arts grants with geographic diversity, stressing that the grants require matching local dollars from the communities.
Pat Harder, an arts commissioner from Twin Falls, said in an interview that the matching dollars communities raise to receive the grants show that they are committed to the arts.
Magic Valley Arts Council Executive Director Robin Baumgartner said one of the commission’s biggest contributions is a program that provides money to be used as a portion of the Arts Council’s operating funds.
“It allows organizations like ours to have a little extra money so community donations go back into concerts and such rather than covering items like rent and insurance,” Baumgartner said. “It helps maximize the money given by the community.”
Staff writer Bradley Guire contributed to this report.
Ben Botkin may be reached at email@example.com.