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Kentucky Arts Groups Told to Expect State Funding Cuts

Local arts organizations that receive funding through the Kentucky Arts Partnership grants could see significant cuts in support for the next fiscal year. Like many state agencies,the Kentucky Arts Council experienced a 5 percent cut in the latest budget, and those cuts—along with the transfer of agency funds to the general fund—will reduce the amount of Kentucky Arts Partnership grants by 25 percent. The grants provide unrestricted operating support to state arts organizations. On April 30, an e-mail went out from Arts Council executive director Lori Meadows to KAP applicants, many of whom apply for and receive funding every year, warning them to expect "significantly lower grant amounts in the FY2015 funding cycle due to the arts council’s loss of $600,000 in agency funds, an additional 5 percent reduction in the agency’s FY2015 state funding, and costs related to various unfunded mandates.""We try to keep them informed as we go through the process because we know just as we're planning our budget for fiscal year '15, they're doing the same thing," says Meadows. Meadows says she expects a 25 percent reduction in the overall pool of partnership grants as a result of cutting $475,000 from the arts council budget. "That doesn’t necessarily translate into a 25 percent reduction for every organization, because there are many factors that figure into an individual organization’s funding for each year," she says.Last fiscal year, the council awarded $1.9 million in KAP grants. Twenty-six Jefferson County arts nonprofits received KAP funding, which—unlike most arts grants—isn't restricted to single projects or initiatives, so the funds can be used for general operating costs. Those grants ranged from $1,000 for the small Louisville Literary Arts to more than $100,000 to Actors Theatre of Louisville.  

"We do know it’s going to have an impact," says Meadows. "Over the last several years, as we’ve experienced budget reductions, we’ve tried very hard to protect the Kentucky Arts Partnership program as much as possible, because we know that unrestricted operating support is difficult to access from other sources and it’s extremely important.""At this point, there’s simply no other way to make up the deficits that we’re going to be experiencing," she adds. The Arts Council is part of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. On top of a five-percent reduction in budget, which many state agencies felt, the Arts Council transferred about $600,000 in its earned income "agency funds" to the state's general fund. The council's agency funds come primarily from admission sales and exhibitor fees for Kentucky Crafted: the Market event, which showcases the wares of more than 200 Kentucky artists and artisans over two days every year."The arts are not being singled out. We’re experiencing the same reductions as most overall agencies," says Meadows. "The state budget has been in a challenging situation for several years."Meadows says she hopes this funding picture isn't the new normal for state support of arts organizations. "I would hope that going forward, as the state gets in better shape, we are going to be able to start seeing some of the funding we’ve lost, to gain that back into our general fund appropriation," she says. "I’m sure all the organizations and artists across the state hope the same."Hopeful KAP grant recipients should hear results of their applications by July 1. To qualify for this grant program, an arts organization must have federal tax-exempt 501(c)3 status, be at least three years old and offer arts programming to the public. Meadows insists the funding picture is "not something that we're happy about." "We work in partnership with all of those organizations, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to have the funding they need to be able to provide arts programming and services to the people of Kentucky," she says. "So I’d like to point out that it’s not just the organizations that are going to suffer, but it’s everyone in the state, because the organizations might not be able to continue to fund their programs at the current level."

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