FIRST OFF . . .
The Massachusetts State Arts Council is fighting to stay alive because the Ways and Means Committee of the state House of Representatives has spiked a proposed budget appropriation of $19.5 million. Unless some or all of the money is restored, the agency will cease to exist. Art lovers are comparing the cut to “being told that civilization had come to an end.” The full House is to take up the matter this week. The cut has stirred protests from various national art agencies. “My reaction is outrage,” Edmund Barry Gaither, director of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury, told the New York Times. “Minority institutions will be disproportionately impacted because they don’t have endowments and a donor-base reaching back to the 19th Century as do many other cultural organizations.” Most top political leaders are unwilling to predict the outcome of the fight, but Gov. Michael S. Dukakis has expressed strong support for the Arts Council, for which he wrote the original legislation in 1966. The cutback resulted from unrelated forces, including an unexpected $600-million state budget deficit.