H.B. Art Center asks for budget support

Supporters of the Huntington Beach Art Center have launched a grass-roots campaign to encourage city leaders to spare the arts as they look to cut $3.5 million from their budget for the next fiscal year.

Kate Hoffman, the center's executive director, and Laurie Pechulis, the coordinator for the volunteer group HB Alliance for Arts Education, have asked supporters to e-mail City Council members, set up meetings with them and speak during the council's public comment sessions.

Hoffman said she had contacted arts groups in Huntington Beach and around Orange County and asked them to rally on the center's behalf at council meetings. The intent is to remind the city of the role arts plays in the community, she said.

"The message is: 'Thank you, we appreciate the opportunity to do this,'" she said. "We want more, and we want to keep the art center in place."

Artist Sherie Franssen said during Monday's council meeting that her career took off after her exhibit at the art center in 2007.

"Today, as a result of the support of the art center, my work is seen nationally, and people throughout the country know that the Huntington Beach Art Center is in Surf City," she said.

The city is in the midst of working out its 2011-12 budget, and department heads recently assembled a list that divides citywide programs into three categories: "core" for the most essential, followed by "important" and "added value." The art center, which hosts exhibits, art camps and classes for children and adults, is listed under "added value."

Still, spokeswoman Laurie Frymire said the city has no plan yet to cut funding for the art center.

"There's been no active consideration by the City Council yet," she said. "There's been one study session and there's going to be several more study sessions between now and when the budget's adopted, and they need to look at all sorts of different things."

The city aims to cut $3.5 million for the coming fiscal year. Among the other programs listed under "added value" are the Huntington Central Park Sports Complex, City Gym and Pool, Edison and Murdy community centers, Senior Services, Shipley Nature Center and Junior Lifeguards.

Council members Connie Boardman and Devin Dwyer, who are liaisons to the city's Allied Arts Board, said regardless of the categories, any cuts would ultimately come down to the council.

"What one person may think is core, another person may think is added value," Dwyer said. "Now it's up to us as the council to see where we want the cuts to come from."

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