Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The state and the arts

Before we move on from the latest bout of angst over preservation of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, here's a reminder, via The Roanoke Times' Sharla Bardin, about the biggest state subsidies for the arts:


The $27.8 million in state funds going toward construction of Virginia Tech's Center for the Arts is more than seven times the amount of state money that the General Assembly has appropriated to keep the Arts Commission running in each of the next two years. (Its annual budgets of $4.66 million include $800,000 in federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.)

The multiple is even greater if you count the taxpayer-derived share of the $33.2 million from the university budget that's being spent on the $89 million facility, and greater still if you count the salaries of Tech's arts faculty, who are state employees, and state funds that will be spent on maintaining the facility.

Blacksburg is one of many Virginia communities whose arts scenes are anchored by state colleges and universities, state-employed arts faculties and state-funded venues.

The Blacksburg story also reinforces a point often made by advocates of state arts subsidy: That public money draws private money. Alongside the $27.8 million in state funds budgeted for construction of the arts center, there's $28 million from private contributors.