Grants for York County artists, nonprofits and educators are at risk after Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed the S.C. Arts Commissions entire budget last week.
Also because of the veto, a statewide program done in partnership with Winthrop University that helps educators integrate arts into school curriculum is also in danger of elimination.
Haleys annual state budget vetoes, released Thursday, included striking the state Arts Commissions entire $3.5-million budget. The commission supports the Arts Council of York County and similar organizations across the state.
Haley said the private sector can support arts projects. I would rather give this money to the taxpayers and let them decide which charities they are going to give money to than to allow the Legislature to decide, she said.
State legislators will return to Columbia for a special session next week to consider overriding Haleys vetoes. A two-thirds vote is required to override a veto.
It would be a very unwise decision to let this stand, said Debra Heintz, the Arts Council of York Countys executive director. South Carolinas investment in the arts has a tremendous impact on quality of life and education. It would be a shame to sacrifice that when theres no practical reason for doing so.
Until Haleys veto, the York County arts council expected $17,000 in support from the state this fiscal year, which began July 1. The money would be used for general operations support and small grants, Heintz said.
The state support amounts to about 3.5 percent of the councils $492,000 budget.
The council planned to take between $4,000 and $6,000 of the state money and match it with other support to provide small grants. The grants are up to $1,000 and are given out quarterly.
Grant applicants include artists needing support for projects, exhibitions, or professional development; nonprofits looking to provide arts activities; and educators looking for support for arts initiatives.
Teachers on their own time are putting together drama programs after school, plays or productions where they need some extra help with costumes or props, said Betty Plumb, executive director of the S.C. Arts Alliance.
Plumb, who lives in Rock Hill, sits on the panel that awards the arts councils small grants.
These teachers, Plumb said, are doing above and beyond what they are doing in the classroom, but theyre doing it because they know it benefits students to participate in those activities.
It doesnt seem like a lot of money, but sometimes its the difference between a program happening or not happening, Plumb said.
Heintz said the first round of small grants already awarded for the new fiscal year may be in jeopardy.
Included in this round of grants are $800 to the Boys and Girls Club to pay for a fine arts program taught by area artists and $600 for Shakespeare Carolina to perform at Winthrop Universitys Johnson Hall.
State arts integration program threatened
Haleys vetoes also threaten a state-wide program that helps educators integrate arts into curriculum.
The program is called the Arts in Basic Curriculum, or ABC, Project and provides a range of support in integrating arts into curriculum for school districts, schools, adminstrators or educators at all education levels, from pre-school to college.
The programs total budget is $160,000, said Christine Fisher, ABC Projects executive director.
Unlike the employees of the S.C. Arts Commission who were told not to report to work Monday because their budget had been vetoed, Fisher was able to come to work because Winthrop University provides a portion of the programs overall budget, she said.
Shes waiting to see what happens in the Legislature to find out whether her program will continue.
While the arts commission awards grants to schools and districts to increase students exposure to the arts, Fisher and another staff member provide free support to help them carry our their plans.
That support comes in the form of workshops, help with writing grants, help creating curriculum, networking with other arts integrators to share and develop ideas, and anything else clients need--free support educators dont get elsewhere, she said.
The job carries Fisher and another staff member all over the state; they sometimes spend the night on the couches of art teachers.
We do things very economically because we really believe in the mission of providing quality arts education opportunities to all South Carolina students, she said.
Local legislators react
Most legislators contacted by The Herald on Monday said they would vote to override Haleys veto of the arts commission.
State House Rep. Gary Simrill, a Rock Hill Republican, said he will support protecting funding of the arts commission. Losing the funding means losing the ability to facilitate the arts in the state, he said.
He disagrees with Haleys wanting to support the arts but get rid of the commission.
Thats like were going to leave the body but take the head off, he said. The commission is the brain and the nervous system behind the impact the arts make in the state, securing grant dollars and benefiting the economy.
Its also the only resource available for budding artists wanting to move forward, he said.
State Sen. Wes Hayes, who co-chairs an arts caucus that includes most members of the General Assembly, said its likely the Legislature will vote to restore the arts commission. But additional money for grants, which Haley also vetoed, may not be protected, said Hayes, a Republican.
Rep. Ralph Norman, another Rock Hill Republican, said hell vote to sustain Haleys vetoes, including the arts commission, which will likely put him in the minority, he said.
When lawmakers need to be trimming budgets and cutting non-vital programs, Columbia is instead in a feeding frenzy spending extra revenue, he said.
The arts are important, he said, including the ABC Project, which is a good project. But theyre not a core function of government.