Arts leaders push for renewed investment in culture

Brother, can you spare a dime?

In Georgia, where the state allocates less than 10 cents per citizen on the arts, a coalition of educators, arts organization directors and community leaders is sounding the alarm.

“To me, we’re losing a whole generation,” said Laura Lieberman, president of Georgia Alliance for Arts Education. Lieberman is spearheading a group that filed a declaration Thursday pleading with the state to reverse a decline in public funding that began six years ago and has reduced state funding of arts programs from $4.5 million to just under $600,000.

That makes Georgia’s contribution the lowest, per capita, of all 50 states.

Signers of the declaration include ArtsGeorgia, BurnAway, C4 Atlanta, the Georgia Alliance for Arts Education, the Georgia Association of Museums & Galleries, and public domain, inc.

They conclude that cuts in public funding “have resulted in Georgia being ranked last in the country in per capita state arts spending. It has contributed to Georgia being ranked near last in arts education.”

The plea from these arts leaders comes at a bleak time for theater and music in Atlanta:

  • Earlier this month the Georgia Shakespeare closed its doors after efforts to pay down more than $300,000 in debt left the 29-year-old company strapped for operating cash.
  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians were locked out on Sept. 7 in a contract dispute sparked by 12 consecutive years of deficits, postponing the 2014-15 season and raising concerns about the orchestra’s future.

Lieberman said arts organizations in Atlanta will need support from corporate movers and shakers — not just monetary support but advocacy. The state’s corporate leaders need to convince the legislature of the critical role that the arts play in the area’s economic development, she said.

“I hope this is the beginning of a serious groundswell,” Lieberman said. “I hope that people in the arts are tired of being at the bottom.”

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About the Author

Bo Emerson
Bo Emerson
Bo Emerson is an Atlanta native and a long-time AJC feature and news writer.