Virginia Legislature moves to discontinue humanities funding


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The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities stands to lose $290,000 in state funding in the next fiscal year and have all remaining support -- more than $1 million -- withdrawn in 2011, according to a proposed budget. The foundation runs more than 20 statewide programs on literature, history and culture, including the Virginia Festival of the Book.

“I’m hoping we will retain some of the state funds,” foundation President Rob Vaughan told The Times. Although state funding has declined in recent years -- from 40% of the foundation’s budget to 25% -- losing that support would have a significant effect.


“The state funding itself has been a part of almost all that we do,” Vaughan said. The two largest individual projects that state dollars support are the nascent Encyclopedia Virginia and the grants that the foundation makes to nonprofits. The grants program, Vaughan said, “has been reduced just in this year from $450,000 to $90,000 -- that’s all state funds that have been cut.”

Yet more than just those programs would be affected. Because the foundation, which is housed at the University of Virginia, has a small staff for an organization of its size and scope, “anything that happens,” Vaughan said, “happens across the board.”

“It’s a tough climate,” he said. “It’s a hard case to make these days, when they’re trying to find every penny.”

Vaughan, who was one of the foundation’s founders in 1974 and has been president since 1987, has seen difficult economic times before. In 1990, he said, “we were zeroed out of the budget for a short period, but we managed to get back into the budget before we saw any effect.” But he’s never seen anything like this. “This is overwhelmingly the worst for state budgets, for revenues and for expenditures.”

Still, he is hopeful. “The economy eventually will recover,” he said. “I think we will prevail.”

-- Carolyn Kellogg