State Funding Cuts Come Home to Louisville Arts Groups

Nonprofit arts groups have been preparing for reduced state funding for the next fiscal year since they were told in April to expect a reduction in the Kentucky Arts Partnership grants, which provide operational support through the Kentucky Arts Council. The arts council announced fiscal year 2015 funding amounts  today. Nearly every group in Jefferson County saw their funding reduced, but the impact of those cuts will be felt differently from organization to organization. 

Some were able to absorb the hit, like the Louisville Ballet, which received $10,000 less this year. General Manager Cara Hicks says that since they knew ahead of time, the Ballet could make up the difference through private and corporate donations. 

“We did anticipate this and we were able to plan accordingly for it. We did put it in our budget as being lower,” says Hicks. “We got a little more than we were expecting, which was good, so we were pleased with the outcome with that. We were not totally surprised.” 

The ballet was one of Arts Partner program’s highest-funded organizations in the state last year, along with the Louisville Orchestra (reduced by $38,000 this year), Actors Theatre of Louisville (which lost $11,600) and the Fund for the Arts (cut by $33,151). We’ll follow-up tomorrow on how the Fund for the Arts’ cuts could affect other groups in Louisville.

Not all funded organizations are big enough to absorb the cuts. Bourbon Baroque is a small period chamber ensemble, and their total projected fiscal year 2015 budget is $80,000 – less than the amount the Louisville Orchestra, for example, received from the state grant program last year. Bourbon Baroque received $3,189 from the arts council last year; this year, they’re awarded $1,653. That might not sound like a lot to lose, but artistic director John Austin Clark says the impact will be noticeable – fewer musicians, fewer concerts, even longer waits between website updates.

“It could be as simple as saying well, I guess we’re not going to have French horns, we can’t have natural horns for the Haydn Mass we really wanted to do,” says Clark.

Bourbon Baroque collaborated with Squallis Puppeteers (funding reduced $662) last year to produce “Les Sauvages,” an opera performed with live musicians and puppets. Those kinds of collaborations, Clark says, can suffer in tight financial times. 

“While our versatility has merits, of course the smaller dollar amount means we can’t be as innovative and collaborative with our programming, and that’s what the mission of Bourbon Baroque is all about, to be able to work together and to pool our resources together to make things happen,” Clark says. “But as any artistic director knows, doing that, while you are pooling your sweat equity, it takes the money to make these wonderful innovative projects happen.”

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