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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, June 28, 2004

Governor to cut budget for arts by 61 percent

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Gov. Linda Lingle plans to cut more than half the money allocated for the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

The Legislature allocated nearly $1.2 million for the foundation for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Thursday. Lingle's plan is to reduce that amount by more than $730,000.

Arts on the edge

The foundation supports more than 110 nonprofit arts organizations, including:

  • Honolulu Academy of Arts
  • Honolulu Theater for Youth
  • Contemporary Museum
  • Maui Academy of Performing Arts
  • Maui Arts and Culture Center
  • Volcano Arts Center
  • Kona Association of the Performing Arts
  • Kahilu Theater Foundation

• • •

Have your say

Those who wish to comment on state funding for the arts can contact:

  • Gov. Linda Lingle via e-mail or 586-0034
  • Finance Director Georgina Kawamura via e-mail or 586-1518
The foundation, which has taken budget hits since 1994, when it received more than $6 million in state funding, supports more than 110 nonprofit arts organizations.

"I think this is a self-defeating thought process," said Susan Killeen, executive director of the Hawai'i Consortium for the Arts. "I appreciate the need to balance budget, but this is shortsighted. Recovery time will go for years."

Lingle was unavailable for comment last night. However, in an e-mailed response to Killeen's concerns, Lingle wrote that she was sympathetic to the difficulties of supporting the arts, but determined to make sure the state does not fall into deficits.

"It is sad that things were allowed to get to this point over the last few years," Lingle wrote. "But, simply, we spend a lot more than we take in."

Supporters of the arts said contributions to state arts programs should be seen as investment in the community, especially in education and tourism.

Many of the programs that will be forced to accept funding cuts of nearly 70 percent provide exhibits and performances especially for children, Killeen said. They fill a need that isn't being meet elsewhere.

"We do not have strong arts education in our schools right now," she said.

Among those programs are the Children's Theater at the Zoo and the Honolulu Theatre for Youth.

"This cut is very, very severe," said George Ellis, recently retired director of the Honolulu Academy of Arts and a commissioner for the foundation.

"With cultural tourism being touted as a means of bringing visitors back to the state," he said, "it's a little like killing the goose that laid the golden eggs."

For larger organizations with more access to private money, such as the Academy of Arts, the drop in state funding is likely to mean a loss of quality.

"But for the smaller organizations," Ellis said, "sometimes survival is the critical issue."

Many of the organizations, including the Lyman Museum in Hilo, applied for two-year grants last year, and are halfway through projects they may be unable to complete, said Lyman's executive director, Dolly Strazar

The museum, Strazar said, has been working to preserve its extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts, which have been improperly stored in cardboard boxes and need to be transferred to acid-free containers. Without the second year of funding the museum had counted on, Strazar said, the preservation project may not be completed.

The museum, which is 75 years old and mostly privately funded, will survive, Strazar said. Some of the smaller organizations on the Hilo side of the Big Island are in for much more difficult times, she said.

The East Hawai'i Cultural Center, the Big Island Dance Council and the Hawai'i Concert Society are among the organization relying on State Foundation grants, Strazar said.

"I can't see why this money is being cut," Strazar said. "A million dollars distributed statewide really isn't that much, and if someone isn't looking at it from an investment point of view, they are really off base."

The state Council on Revenues, which issues projections used to determine how much the state has to spend in a given year, forecast a 5.2 percent increase for the fiscal year ending Wednesday over the previous 12 months.

Lingle has said she believes the increase will be 1 percent higher than that, but that the increased revenues won't be enough to cover the costs of government worker pay increases, debt service, the state retirement system and employee healthcare.

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.