SC governor wants to merge Arts Commission with State Museum, cut jobs

jself@thestate.comJanuary 23, 2013 

— Gov. Nikki Haley wants to fold the S.C. Arts Commission into the State Museum, a move that would eliminate the arts group’s board and director but leave intact its grants program.

Asked about Haley’s proposal Tuesday by state House budget writers, Ken May, the commission’s executive director, said, “It eliminates the Arts Commission, so you can imagine I’m not the biggest fan of that.”

Haley has proposed severe cuts to the Arts Commission before.

In 2012, the first-term Republican governor recommended eliminating the agency, saying its administrative costs were too high. When lawmakers ignored her, Haley vetoed the agency’s funding. Lawmakers overrode her veto.

According to Haley’s executive budget proposal, merging the Arts Commission and the State Museum would reduce the commission’s personnel costs by 30 percent, including eliminating the executive director’s $91,664-a-year position.

The agency’s grants program, and some associated employees, would be transferred to the State Museum, a move that May says would result in the loss of some services that the commission provides.

In 2012-2013, about $1.8 million of the agency’s $3.46 million budget went directly to arts organizations, including museums, arts councils, orchestras and schools, May said. The agency received about $1.9 million of its budget directly from the state.

The agency grants money to arts organizations statewide and provides professional development and grants to artists. It also develops education programming for public schools.

For 2013-2014, May is asking lawmakers for $1 million more for grants, $30,000 for ongoing professional development programs for artist-entrepreneurs, and $25,000 to create cultural districts that foster partnerships between arts and business communities across the state.

May worries that, under Haley’s proposal, the state may not be eligible for some federal arts grants.

“There has to be a designated agency or department that has its own commission or board or council” when applying for the grants, May said. “You also have to have qualified staff and a statewide planning process.”

The State Museum, with its different mission, may not qualify if arts grants are merely a program within the museum, he said.

“The State Museum is a retail operation” offering “direct interaction with the public as an attraction,” he said. “Our agency is charged with affecting the whole environment of cultural activity in the state.”

Reach Self at (803)771-8658

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