State arts council to rely on $17.5 million trust fund for grants

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Andrew Moore and Cindy Wolters add to a chalk painting during ArtsCape at Capaha Park in Cape Girardeau on May 22. ArtsCape is funded through the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, which in turns has received money from the Missouri Arts Council. The Missouri Arts Council is going to dip into a trust fund in the upcoming fiscal year, but its board hasn't yet decided how much . (Kristin Eberts)

A tight budget year created challenges for schools and governments, but the arts emerged from the legislative session with no state allocation.

The Missouri Arts Council will depend on funds in its $17.5 million trust to grant money to hundreds of not-for-profit organizations, school districts, civic organizations, theaters and symphonies across the state that use the money for ongoing programs.

"They knew we had money in the trust and it didn't mean cutting jobs," said Beverly Strohmeyer, executive director of the council.

The council's board will meet next month and decide how far to dip into the limited funds in the trust, which was built up by the Non-Resident Professional Athletes and Entertainers Tax.

Larger metropolitan organizations like the Kansas City Symphony and the St. Louis Art Museum received more than $200,000 in funding from the council during the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30. More than a dozen smaller organizations in Southeast Missouri use the funding for events and ongoing programs.

In Cape Girardeau, organizations like the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, the Crisp Museum and Old Town Cape collectively received $86,057 last year. The Margaret Harwell Art Museum in Poplar Bluff received $24,940, and organizations in Sikeston received $18,393.

Organizations in Jackson, Marble Hill, Charleston, Caruthersville, Dexter, East Prairie, Kennett, Perryville, Puxico and Ste. Genevieve received smaller grants, less than $2,500 each, for programs and events.

Strohmeyer said funding the next round of grants will amount to nearly $9 million, more than half of the trust.

"There are different strategies that we could take," she said.

Depending on the priorities set by the council, grants could be fully funded or cut to spread the trust funds over more years. Grants could be cut by 25 to 30 percent, if the council reduces allocations this year in anticipation no future state appropriations. The last time the council did not receive an appropriation was in 2004.

"It could be a massive lost opportunity to Cape Girardeau's economy," said Dr. Joel Ray, a local neurosurgeon and board member of the state arts council.

He said the arts stimulate the economy and should especially be supported in times of economic hardships. He said the arts council had a funding mechanism that worked in good economic times and bad.

"They want to go back and reach in and make it dysfunctional again," Ray said.

Although the council faces tough decisions on funding, he and Strohmeyer said arts supporters need to continue lobbying for more public awareness of the funding situation.

While the lack of funds will force not-for-profits and other organizations to be more creative fundraisers, no local programs are completely dependent on the money.

The Arts Council of Southeast Missouri uses the money for about a third of its budget, said Dr. Ann Gifford, chair of the board of directors. Last year the council received a $26,355 grant from the state council for its arts programming. That is the maximum amount it can receive during the next two years because the state council reassesses funding every three years. In 2009, the local council received a smaller amount than in the past, forcing some cutbacks, Gifford said.

Shows that are more labor-intensive, the Girardot and Regional Juried Arts Exhibition, were cut this year. Less funding and staff reductions made it more difficult to put on the events, Gifford said. ArtsCape, which was held in last weekend, was also scaled back. Gifford said the organization is depending more on local support in the form of private donors and volunteers.

She said volunteers helped with ArtsCape and that the council is looking to donors to help continue the juried shows.

"Everybody is having to cut back, but you still always want to offer everything you can," she said.

Old Town Cape receives some money for its Tunes at Twilight concert series. Director Marla Mills said the grant was temporary and helped create a burst of marketing for the series. The initial grant was $5,000.

"It really helped propel that event," she said. A $2,000 grant helped fund the $11,000 project this year, she said. The event, which also has corporate sponsors, was never intended to be solely reliant on grant money, she said.

The Crisp Museum at Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus received about $25,000 for traveling exhibitions. Another part of the museum budget, funding from the university, is also facing cutbacks. Museum director Peter Nguyen said he expects that in the future big-name exhibitions will be less frequent.

"We're having to rethink the types of exhibitions we're bringing in," he said.

National Public Radio affiliate KRCU also received minimal funds through the tax. Station manager Dan Woods said the funding has been inconsistent in the past. Withholdings, he said, cut the award in half to about $10,000 last year. He said he is pursuing other grants.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

32 N. Main St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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