Are the Arts Growing Less Important? The City of Atlanta Thinks So

1/15/09

By: Megan Morian

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Did you hear? The Atlanta Jazz Festival isn’t going to happen this year. Also, the mayor has cut budgeting for the Arts by $175,000 and many sponsorships have dried up. The economy is getting us down.

According to Atlanta’s General Fund Summary of the FY 09 Adopted Budget Plan, the city is spending just over $30 million on “Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs” this year. They have lowered the budget from last year’s $32.5 million. I read down the list of everything involved under that particular department, and when I took out all of the “parks and recreation” to carve out just the “cultural affairs,” I was left with this list: Music Jazz Festival, Arts in Education, Contracts for Arts Services, Public Art, The Chastain Arts Center, and the Cultural Affairs Administration. This was quite a small segment of a very large list. The same goes for the spending: a very small cut out of a very large list. According to the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs Annual Report, the city spent about $1.5 million on cultural affairs programs last year. (To visit their website and see their programs, click here.) And as I already mentioned, they are beginning the cuts for this year.

In a city where, honestly, tourist attractions are harder to come by, how could we be slashing the funding of the few that are already here? Atlanta needs its fun, its culture, and its music. What else is going to keep our spirit up during these depressing economic times? Atlanta is rich in history, art, music, and culture, and oftentimes it is when we combine these in some fashion, either in a festival or a museum, that people are most likely to attend and enjoy the whole experience. Live music and art festivals often come together in this way, and people love them. It is how many undiscovered artists of both varieties can present themselves to ten times the audience they would if they performed in a small venue. The arts are vital to the city. When Atlantans don’t want to spend a lot of money on anything else, they are still going to need entertainment; convenient, cost-effective, and condensed forms just make it that much easier.

I’m not blind. I read the news and I watch the newscasters on television announce the misfortune befalling us daily. Things are tough and tight. More than ever, people are staying home and keeping their money in their pockets. Atlanta should be doing the opposite in particular cases. Slash funding somewhere else, but don’t cut out our arts. And you, patrons of Atlanta, you should take the time to discover what’s new and innovative in our city. Discover the unseen, the not yet popular, and the “Who is that?” Interest encourages spending. Atlanta could stand to pump a little more into the arts, and we could stand to get out there and explore a little more of what they have to offer.

Disagree? Agree? Please share your opinion!

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