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Arts funding bottoming out

Ryan Carter

The ripple effects of massive cuts in state funding for the arts are

beginning to be felt in Burbank, a city filled with artistic talent.

“I have been doing this for 28 years, I’ve seen many ups and

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downs in the economy and weathered lots of changes, but I have never

seen it this serious,” said Barbara Beckley, who is producing

director of The Colony Theatre Company, a Burbank playhouse that

offers at least 125 performances a year.

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Beckley and others throughout the state who receive some form of

funding for arts programs from the California Arts Council have been

victimized by a 2003-04 state budget that slashed arts funding from

$17.5 million to $1 million.

Just three years ago, the California Arts Council budget was $30

million. According to state Sen. Jack Scott (D-Glendale), chairman of

the state’s joint legislative committee on the arts, the 2003-04

budget puts California at the bottom of the nation in terms of arts

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funding from the state.

Beckley is already seeing the effects the cuts are having on the

way her theater business is run.

“We have to cut corners,” she said. “We came to Burbank with

reserves, but the significant sup- port from the arts council that we

were planning for has not come, and now all of a sudden we are having

to scramble.”

Last season, Beckley said she ended up having to staple a carpet

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to the stage on opening night. The director of develop- ment divides

his time with duties that should be carried out by a messenger. For

Beckley, sacrifices are necessary to ensure that productions are not

compromised financially.

Representatives from Glen- dale’s A Noise Within theater company,

the L.A. Philharmonic and several other artists, educators and

theater owners joined Scott recently at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to

discuss the future of state arts funding.

“Unless we nurture the young artist, then we will not have that

individual making contributions to the museums, and to theaters that

we count on for the revitalization of our economy,” Scott said.

The senator said he will argue for a reinstatement of at least

last year’s art council funding in the budget next year, and will

call for amendments if new funds are not put back in.

He acknowledged that arts funding is not a matter of life and

death, but it should not be passed off as something that, when there

are other options, should be cut so drastically.

“It goes way beyond the dollar value,” Beckley said, adding that

the arts -- film and theater among them -- are what attract people to

California. “I came here because there is a mystique about California

and what this state represents in terms of creativity. Nobody ever

said, ‘Michigan, Here I Come,’ instead of ‘California, Here I Come.’

The Mamas and the Papas didn’t sing ‘Arizona Dreamin.’”


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