The S.C. Arts Commission is once again on the defense after Gov. Nikki Haley has vetoed all funding for the organization. The governor announced the vetoes, along with 80 other items in the 2012-2013 budget, last Thursday. Similar cuts were proposed by Haley in 2011 and by Sanford in 2010. The S.C. Arts Commission is currently closed as they await legislative action on the vetoes.

The Commission works to build a stronger arts community in S.C. by focusing on artist development, arts education, and community arts development. Haley criticized the amount of overhead in the agency’s budget. “Who would donate to a charity that spent that much money on overhead?” Haley asked. “Instead of taking a command-and-control approach to promoting the arts, we would be better off returning these funds to the public, to let them decide for themselves what artistic endeavors deserve financial support.” Her solution? Cut the $3,446,946 set aside for the S.C. Arts Commission, plus $500,000 in non-recurring grants.

Meanwhile, the state’s arts community has erupted in protest. While the S.C. Arts Commission’s Facebook group has stayed pretty quiet, the group “Join the Cause to Support the SC Arts Commission and SC ETV” makes the following point: “By proviso, 70 percent of the Arts Commission’s state appropriation must (and does) go to grants. The governor assumes that the remaining 30 percent goes to administration, but that is not the case. The Arts Commission is much more than a grantmaking agency, and the majority of its non-grant expenditures of state funds are programmatic, not administrative.”

The S.C. Arts Alliance, a private nonprofit assembly of arts organizations, has worked to spread the word about the cuts and encouraged supporters to sign a petition. Supporters are also encouraged to contact state senators and house members this week to ask them to stand up for the arts and education during the veto override session July 17. There will be a Rally for the Arts at the Statehouse in Columbia on Mon. July 16. Attendees are encouraged to “make art on the Statehouse grounds.”

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