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Saturday, January 25, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Area arts-funders struggle with major cuts

Seattle Times music critic

The arts in the Puget Sound area have long been beneficiaries of various public and private funding agencies, but those bodies are now facing serious cutbacks and making difficult decisions about whom to fund and how much to give.

Washington State Arts Commission

News for the next biennium looks grim because of the cut of more than 39 percent proposed for the WSAC's share of the state budget by Gov. Gary Locke. (Other sources of income include about $600,000 annually from the National Endowment for the Arts, and some private grants from foundations such as the Reader's Digest Fund.)

As director Kris Tucker puts it, "Without adjusting for inflation or growth to the state population, this (2003-04) budget takes us back 18 years, and would have a severe impact on arts programs statewide, including grants to arts organizations. We don't know how we will make the cuts: 40 percent off everything? We're also targeted to lose three staff members (of 18)."

2001-02: $4,612,057.
2002-03: $5,179,374.
2003-04 (projected): $3,788,271.

Cultural Development Authority
(Formerly King County Cultural Resources Division, including King County Arts Commission.)

As of Jan. 1, the King County Cultural Resources Division has morphed into a PDA (a public development agency) called the Cultural Development Authority, which gets its money from three sources — the county's hotel/motel tax revenues, the "Percent for Art" capital program and an annual fee ($200,000 next year) from the county for maintenance of public art. The move follows draconian county budget cuts, which slashed the Cultural Resources' share of the county dollars from $2.3 million (2001) to $1.3 million (2002) and down to $200,000 (2003).

Overseen by the county, the new PDA is headed by Jim Kelly, who says December's rise in hotel/motel tax revenues makes him believe that tourism and hotel occupancy have "turned the corner" and are now in an upward trend.

2001 budget: $9.3 million.
2002 budget: $9.3 million.
2003 budget: $8.3 million.

City of Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs
(Formerly Seattle Arts Commission.)

Another new title to remember, this one marking the Seattle Arts Commission's transformation into an office of the mayor, headed by director Michael Killoren. The transition also marks some downsizing: Two staff members have been cut, and five members have retired from the 15-member advisory board that is still known as the Seattle Arts Commission. Also trimmed in the wake of a 22 percent funding cut this year: the SAC's Arts in Education program. The SAC has moved from its old Seattle Center home to the Key Tower, to be closer to other city offices.

2001 budget: $4,686,511.
2002: $4,875,586 (adopted budget; actual figures posted this week).
2003: $3,957,388 (adopted budget).

Corporate Council for the Arts

A united fund of corporate donors in King and Pierce counties, the CCA gives unrestricted operating grants to more than 60 major and second-tier arts groups in those counties, following an exhaustive review of each group. That overview gives the agency an unparalleled birds-eye view of the region's arts scene.

CCA President Peter Donnelly hopes the council's annual campaign, which starts this month, will enable it to "budget flat" in raising the same amount of money as last year, despite what he calls "a bigger economic challenge this year." The CCA's workplace-giving campaign, called ArtsFund, is on the rise despite the downturn in the economy.

2001: $2.86 million.
2002: $2.73 million.
2003: $2.73 million (projected).

Poncho

This long-running organization funds the arts through the proceeds of a legendary auction (supplemented by additional auctions), but executive director Carol Monroe has seen Poncho's budget drop from a high of $2 million annually (in the fiscal years ending 1999 and 2000) to only three-fourths that.

Monroe recently made the tough decision to reduce the number of grantees from 46 to 35, partly in recognition of the big $719,000 deficit shown by the Seattle Symphony last June: "We were founded to help the Seattle Symphony, and we feel an obligation to drive money to the majors." But smaller groups, such as Book-It Theatre and the Pat Graney Company, are hit hard when those $3,000 grants disappear.

"I can understand the cuts," says choreographer Graney, whose award-winning dance company does programs in prisons and has toured internationally. The company's current annual budget is $398,000.

"But we're down two staff people, and it's been tough. You struggle for a long time to be included (in Poncho funding). We will go on, and hope the position will change."

2000-01: $1.6 million.
2001-02: $1.5 million.
2002-03: $1.5 million.

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com

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