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Charlotte’s Cultural Life Task Force to discuss government funding of the arts

The Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance is a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.

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  • Arts funding

    The Cultural Life Task Force has 21 members studying arts funding and will make recommendations in early 2014.


Charlotte’s Cultural Life Task Force assembles for a third time Monday to consider ways to make the cultural community sustainable in a challenging economy. Members will talk about how much money Charlotte and Mecklenburg County give to the cultural sector.

They’ll review city, county and state funding, as well as sources designated for public art, capital investments and endowments.

Public funding for the arts has dropped 25 percent since 2002. City money for grants and programs remained stable. The city has cut $1 million for operating city-owned facilities since 2010. The county provided $2.167 million to support grants and programs in 2002; this funding has been eliminated entirely.

These declines combined with a 36-percent reduction in private funding to the Arts & Science Council leave the cultural sector with a serious problem.

“We are approaching a crisis,” said Valecia McDowell, task force co-chair. “You can sort of see it coming down the track. We have a couple of choices. We can continue to ride the train toward the crisis, or we can try to take some precautionary and intentional steps to keep the train from running off the track.”

The task force includes representatives from the arts, education and government. They are in phase one of their three-phase plan to examine arts fundraising and recommend a long-term solution.

For years, the ASC has collected and distributed money to the cultural sector, but fund drives have brought in significantly less in the last decade, making the way it functions a topic of discussion for the task force.

“What is a challenge for the North Carolina Dance Theatre is not necessarily a challenge for the Mint (Museum),” said McDowell, a lawyer with Moore & Van Allen. “We’re looking at the benefits and detriments of the current model.”

Houston trip debriefing

Also on Monday’s agenda is a debrief on the Charlotte Chamber trip to Houston, a portion of which was devoted to examining the Texas city’s cultural funding. The Chamber visits a city annually to examine its successes and challenges, and several task force members went on the trip to see how the arts fit into Houston’s economy.

“As funding for the sector continues to dwindle,” McDowell said, “the people who are going to be impacted by that are in large measure folks who would otherwise not be able to afford or appreciate the arts offerings of a community. I sort of grew up as one of those people. It’s particularly important to me that that not happen.”

This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.
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