Arts education projects and cultural programs aimed at diverse communities would come under the ax through Mecklenburg County's proposed budget. Arts groups already hit by sharp funding cuts from the Arts & Science Council would feel a further squeeze. And the future of uptown's Spirit Square would be in question.
The spending plan presented Monday would affect three programs the county supports through the ASC.
Funding for arts projects in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools would shrink from the current year's $349,600 to zero.
Money for cultural programs aimed at multicultural audiences would go from $406,600 to zero.
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Support for Spirit Square, which the county owns but Blumenthal Performing Arts Center manages, would fall from this year's $1,051,808 to $750,000 - a 29 percent drop.
The cuts would force the ASC to rein in programs that reach across Mecklenburg, ASC President Scott Provancher said Tuesday. The programs tie in with priorities the county has identified - such as serving the county's cultural diversity.
Without the county's support, Provancher said, the ASC would have to eliminate a program that funds events targeted for African-American, Asian, Latino and Native American culture. The activities have included a showcase of Vietnamese folk tales; performances for American Indian Heritage Month; and an eight-week program on African drumming and dance based in the Hampton Park neighborhood.
"We built that program to meet ... what the county was looking for," Provancher said.
While many of the events have been produced by community groups such as YMCA branches, Provancher said, some of the 26 main groups the ASC supports have also taken part. The loss of the county money would mean a 4 percent reduction in the pool of money available for them.
"In and of itself, a 4 percent reduction is not devastating," Provancher said. But the groups already suffered sharp cuts in their ASC support last year after the recession crimped fundraising. The additional cut would intensify their challenges.
Without the county's contribution for arts-education projects, the ASC would have about 40 percent less money to spend on them next year, Provancher said. It would have to eliminate a program that gives each CMS school a few thousand dollars to bring in projects that dovetail with the school's curriculum - such as workshops, demonstrations or hands-on activities for students.
Because these programs serve needs that county leaders have emphasized, the ASC hopes to persuade them to restore at least some of the funding, Provancher said. It may be possible, he added, to leverage county money to draw support from donors - linking in with Charlotte's long tradition of public-private partnerships.
"We understand the challenges the county is going through," Provancher said. "We also think the ASC is delivering real value to the community."
With Spirit Square, the county intends to revive discussions that began a few years ago about redeveloping the building, county management analyst Faith Leach said.
The $750,000 called for in the spending plan would be enough to operate the center for at least six months. During that time, county leaders will host discussions with the ASC and Blumenthal Center about longer-term plans for the building, which adjoins a 19th-century church sanctuary.
In the meantime, Provancher said, the ASC hopes to find ways to keep Spirit Square "operating and vibrant with the resources that are there."