Illinois Arts Council urges state to restore funding

CHICAGO—Almost $7 million could be wiped out of the Illinois Arts Council’s FY2008 budget if reductions made by the governor’s veto take affect.

The Illinois Arts Alliance is urging Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), Senate President Emil Jones (D), House Speaker Michael Madigan (D), and other state lawmakers to restore funding for the arts and arts education to the budget levels approved by the Illinois General Assembly Aug. 10.

At the beginning of this year's legislative session, Blagojevich proposed flat funding for the Arts Council budget at $20.6 million. The budget approved by the Illinois House and Senate Aug. 10 called for an increase of $3.1 million to the Council’s budget. The veto budget signed by the governor Aug. 23 calls for a 30 percent cut—the largest percentage decrease in the Arts Council’s 42-year history. The overall state budget passed by the legislature totaled $61 billion, and the Illinois Arts Council’s budget is only a small percentage of the overall state budget (.034 percent).

“Drastic cuts at this level will jeopardize Illinois’ reputation as a state that values creativity and embraces the arts,” explained Ra Joy, executive director for the Illinois Arts Alliance. “At this proposed budget level, Illinois would spend less per capita on the arts in fiscal year 2008 than much smaller states like Mississippi and Oklahoma spent on the arts in fiscal year 2007.”

Joy points out that “this would be a huge step backward for Illinois, and it’s going to mean less art in communities and schools throughout the state. While the cuts would have a devastating impact on the entire nonprofit arts industry, it threatens to eliminate small to mid-sized arts organizations that rely on grants from the Arts Council to keep the lights on and their doors open.”

He worries that without council funding, local theaters, museums and others arts organizations may not be able to pay employees and meet their bottom line.

The Arts Council provides one of only a few opportunities available for nonprofit arts organizations to receive much-needed general operating support. As a result of the budget cuts, the council will likely reduce its program grants and Partners in Excellence grants by 41 percent. These grants are used to fund general operating support to local theaters, museums, schools, festivals and libraries. In fiscal year 2007, the council awarded more than $9.4 million of general operating support grants to organizations and communities statewide. These awards ranged from $500 to larger amounts of more than $100,000. The average grant awarded in fiscal year 2007 under program grants and Partners in Excellence grants was approximately $11,349.

A full list of grants awarded through the program grants and Partners in Excellence grants is available by clicking on

The strategic investments made by the council to local theaters, museums, schools, festivals and libraries enhances our overall quality of life and have significant impacts on the economic health and vitality of the state.

On behalf of the arts and culture sector statewide, the Illinois Arts Alliance is moving forward with an aggressive campaign to restore full funding for the arts and arts education. Additionally, the Illinois Arts Alliance is urging advocates to make their voices heard at regional state budget hearings being held through Sept. 27. A listing of budget hearing dates and locations is available at under the “advocacy/legislative” link.

The Illinois Arts Alliance, created in 1982 as a 501(c) 4 organization, is the statewide arts advocacy and service organization promoting the value of the arts to all residents of Illinois. Through research, capacity building and communication, the Illinois Arts Alliance advances widespread support of all the arts, enhances the health of the arts and cultural sector, and fosters a climate in which the broadest spectrum of artistic expression can flourish.

from the Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 2007, issue

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