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