Arts advocates lobby D.C. Council for more money

by Eric Newcomer

Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposed budget slashed the budget for the Commission on the Arts and the Humanities, a grant-allocating agency that supports a number of District arts projects.

The proposed budget boosted large building projects in the arts to $5 million over six years. It also sets aside $250,000 to construct a “Creative Economy Strategy” for the District and another $15 million for the “One City Fund,” which will offer grants to a range of non-profits including arts groups.

But arts groups say that without financial support for the Commission on Arts and the Humanities, art projects in the District that got underway just last year will flounder.

“The arts do a lot of good across the entire city — all of that good is done with less than 1/2 of 0.1 percent of the D.C. budget,” said Robert Bettmann, the head of D.C. Advocates for the Arts. “It’s mind boggling to me that we’re arguing about this.”

Bettmann and fellow arts advocates have been lobbying council members to endorse increasing funding to $11 million.

Six council members have issued statements to the art advocacy group affirming their support for at a minimum maintaining the funding level in fiscal year 2013.

Most recently, Councilwoman Anita Bonds threw her support behind the effort.

“The District is a city full of talent and unique opportunities for aspiring artists. Let’s build upon our success and bring multi-faceted arts programs into our neighborhoods and incorporate them into our developments,” she wrote in a statement to the group. “I stand with you in your fight for stable arts funding for all these reasons and more.”

Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans — who has been a fierce advocates for arts funding — has floated legislation that would direct more money to the arts if the city out-performs revenue estimates, which the District does on a consistent basis.

Gray put additional arts funding on a “wish list” if the District sees more revenues than expected and told The Washington Examiner that he’s open to more funding for the arts if the Council can find a way to pay for it.

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Author: Robert Bettmann

Founder of Day Eight, and the DC Arts Writing Fellowship.