Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Governor Haley's budget vetoes have several state lawmakers vowing to override them next week and some state agencies on the chopping block.
The South Carolina Arts Commission had to close its doors today until the budget process is finished. While Haley essentially said the agency was unnecessary, they say their work touches virtually every county in the state.
"We've been receiving grants from the Arts Commission from different projects, programs and, most importantly, operating support," explains John Whitehead, with the Columbia Music Festival Association.
The CMFA, involved in everything from ballet to orchestra to community events, actually got one of the Arts Commission's first grants in the 60's. It allowed them to hire then part-time promotions guy, now executive director, Whitehead. "The grant was, I think, for $2500," he says. The Commission has helped them ever since, especially with the behind the scenes costs of putting on a production that are vital, but not always exciting. "Paying for the insurance for an event, for the performers as well as for the audience," Whitehead explains.
But grants aren't the only song the Commission can play. "We spend a good deal of time these days working with individual artists, kind of helping them develop the business side," explains Commission Executive Director Ken May, "Arts in education: we established a major partnership in the state called the Arts in Basic Curriculum project."
And their aid reaches all over the state. "We know that we put grants in 40 of 46 counties and provided some sort of staff support in 45 out of 46 counties," says May, "We're in a situation where we need every job we can get, and this is 78,000 and counting and we should try to grow that."
Governor Haley's spokesperson says that while she supports the arts, she doesn't believe the Arts Commission is a core function of government. But both May and Whitehead wonder what the state would be like without it. Says May, "A lot of the infrastructure that's out there for delivering arts to the people is a result of our work." Adds Whitehead, "Actually going from 'Hey gang, let's put a show on!' until the curtain actually rises."
Senator Joel Laurie said in a press conference today that he believes there will be more than enough support to override the Arts Commission budget veto when the legislature votes next week.