At today’s downtown luncheon hosted by the Metro Atlanta Arts Fund, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the 2012 budget for the Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs would be restored to 2011 funding levels, saving the organization from the proposed 50 percent cut that protesters rallied against last week.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Camille Love, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, during a phone interview this afternoon, “and I was as surprised as everyone else.”
What does that mean for arts groups like the Hammonds House Museum, Flux Projects, and WonderRoot? It means that $470,000 in grants funding will be available in 2012 for the same categories that the Office of Cultural Affairs currently supports through its Contracts for Arts Services program. In particular, opportunities for individual artists and community organizations will not disappear due to budget cuts.
The mayor’s decision followed a surge of enthusiastic support from local artists that culminated at last Thursday’s budget hearing before Atlanta City Council. There, speakers including Myrna Anderson-Fuller of Hammonds House, Chris Appleton of WonderRoot, Louis Corrigan of Flux Projects, and Flora Maria Garcia of the Metro Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition gave testimony citing how Atlanta lags behind cities such as Charlotte, North Carolina, that have lower populations yet are staggeringly more generous when it comes to investing in culture.
In a recent editorial in Creative Loafing newspaper, Appleton explains:
“Of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., Atlanta ranks fourth in the number of arts-related businesses per capita and second in arts-related jobs. By comparison, Nashville and Charlotte rank, respectively, eighth and 32nd in arts-related businesses and eighth and 41st in arts-related jobs. Last year, Nashville granted $1.8 million directly to arts and culture organizations and Charlotte granted more than $3 million.”
When asked to describe the reaction to the mayor’s speech, Love added: “The room was just like pandemonium — today was a great day for arts and culture.”