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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 22, 2004

Extra money found for arts

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The state Department of Human Services has found about $625,000 in untapped federal money to replace $500,000 that had been restricted from a state Foundation on Culture and the Arts budget that finances more than 100 nonprofit groups, Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday.

Gov. Linda Lingle
The new-found dollars can only be used for programs that work with disadvantaged youths. But "a majority" of those receiving money would qualify, and the others would be able to receive their original allotment from existing money that was not restricted, foundation chairwoman Mona Abadir said.

Lingle caused an uproar in the arts community last month when she placed a restriction on $500,000 of the $1.2 million approved by the Legislature that was targeted for nonprofit arts and culture organizations that apply for grants through the foundation. The restriction was part of a statewide budget-tightening strategy put in place in anticipation of higher fixed costs.

Lingle praised Human Services Director Lillian Koller for finding the money, adding that she is excited that more money was being put back into the account than had originally been earmarked by the Legislature.

"It will allow (the foundation) to go beyond what it had originally allocated for these programs," Lingle said. She said she understands the argument by the arts community that youths, particularly those who are disadvantaged, can receive a profound and positive impact from being involved in healthy interests such as culture and the arts.

"It's a prime focus for us," she said. "We talk about prevention, and this really is prevention."

The governor's actions met with strong approval from the arts community.

"It's such a wonderful sign that the governor really heard our concerns and really went after some thoughtful, creative solutions," said Susan Killeen, executive director for the Hawai'i Consortium for the Arts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting culture and arts.

"If people did have a sense that the governor did not believe in supporting the arts, that was redeemed today," she said. Killeen also praised the community for its "civic involvement" on the issue.

Louise King Lanzilotti, managing director for the Honolulu Theater for Youth, said about $70,000 of her $1.3 million annual budget has come through the foundation. The money is critical, she said, because it is used for a program that tours Neighbor Island schools.

"That allows us to reach children who would never see live theater without us," she said.

Ruth Bolan, executive director for 'Ohi'a Productions, said her group received $12,000 from a foundation grant to start a children's theater program at the Honolulu Zoo and has been hoping to get the same this year. "A cut — even though that doesn't seem like a lot of funds — we wouldn't be able to do that (program)," Bolan said.

Abadir said the foundation will identify the groups that meet the requirements for obtaining the new money but doesn't think there will be a problem. "Almost every arts group realizes the importance of education and providing access to all people," she said. "Everybody has those kinds of programs, well perhaps they didn't give us the grants for that."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.