Last week, when word reached artists across the state that the House and Senate could possibly uphold a number of budget vetoes, a number of artists took to the web to protest the proposed cuts — which included a proposed $5 million cut to SC ETV and a slashing of nearly 70 percent of the South Carolina Arts Commission budget.
The cuts were part of a nearly $300 million in state budget cuts recommended by Gov. Mark Sanford in 107 separate vetoes.
The cuts had an immediate impact in this area.
Last week, members of the Pickens County Historical Society learned that an event that they’d been looking forward to for months wasn’t going to happen after all.
Rowland Austin, host of ETV’s “Making It Grow” had planned to film an episode of his popular gardening show at Pickens’ Hagood-Mauldin House.
The publicity that such an appearance would generate for the Hagood-Mauldin House and Irma Morris Museum of Fine Arts is immeasurable, and every new visitor to the house and its wonderful gardens helps keep the house, and the historical society, going.
But Austin told historical society members that if legislators upheld the ETV budget veto, his show could soon be a thing of the past, and that filming an episode of a show that may never see air didn’t make sense.
The SC Arts Commission is facing a $1.2 million cut. According to SC Arts Commission officials, the cut, if passed, would leave the commission with just “an administrative shell.”
The SC Arts Commission does a lot of good work.
Just recently, Pickens resident Harold Wayne Turner was honored with the Jean Laney Harris award, in recognition for his life spent making music and musical instruments.
The award, given by the SC General Assembly, is overseen by the Arts Commission and USC’s McKissick Museum.
The commission also assists worthy artistic organizations with grant funding. Pickens’ own Birchwood Center has been the recipient of such a grant, which helped them in their mission of supporting Pickens County’s native folk art.
When artists from across the state heard of the cuts the arts community was facing, they took action, creating Facebook pages and groups that urged people to contact their legislators and ask them to overrule the budget cuts targeting arts agencies, and keeping their members updated on what was going on in Columbia.
Last week, the House voted to uphold 51 of the governor’s vetoes — but protected ETV and many vital programs, including overruling one veto that could have eliminated Internet access in public libraries across the state, and another that cuts funding for the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and the Governor’s School for Math and Science.
The fight isn’t over, though. The Senate is due to reconvene Tuesday, June 29 and continue debating the governor’s budget cuts. Though the Senate cannot override the cuts upheld by
House members, there are still many budget cuts that have yet to be upheld or overruled.
The Senate could restore the $1.2 million due to be cut from the Arts Commission budget after it reconvenes.
We realize that the state is in dire straits, and that every line-item must be looked thoroughly for ways to save the state money and help dig South Carolina out of its financial hole.
Every area is going to be hit with some financial pain — we understand that.
But forcing arts programs to bear more than their share of that pain isn’t just unfair — it’s potentially crippling to these programs, potentially fatal.
Everyone is hurting in this recession and that means the donations that help keep these programs alive are down as well.
Cutting state funding for some of these programs could be the death-blow for them.
A healthy arts scene is vital for any community — and essential in drawing new visitors to our cities and towns.
If you’d like to be a part of this movement, contact Sen. Larry Martin by email at SRU@scsenate.org or Sen. Thomas Alexander AT SGE@scsenate.org, and urge them to protect these programs. Sen. Martin can by reached by phone at 864-306-2126, 878-6105 or 1-803-212-6240.
Sen. Alexander can be reached at (864) 638-2988 or (864)638-2153; or in Columbia at(803) 212-6220 or (803)252-0845.