Franklin’s Arts Funding Promise Falters

29 11 2007

Earlier this year, Mayor Shirley Franklin announced the creation of a “Cultural Investment Fund” that would annually disperse $10 million of city funding to artists and cultural orgs citywide. Great! A report by the city’s Arts and Culture Task Force (pdf) asserts that such an investment would rank Atlanta in the top 15% of cities nationwide in arts support (as of 2005), and above and beyond all cities the mayor deems comparable with an investment of $21.25 per resident.

Well, fast-forward to now and it sounds like the money hasn’t been that easy to come by and now the mayor’s office is backing off the original sum. AccessAtlanta reports that the fund “may come out of the box with $1 million or $2 million” instead of the originally proposed $10 million. Currently the city only gives $600,000 to the arts. So much for blowing away the likes of Miami ($11 million) or Denver ($23 million).

It’s time for Atlanta to grow up.

It can’t be the adolescent city of the 1990’s anymore, dead set on growth and tax revenue at any cost. This city needs to move out of its parents basement, get its own place and start playing with the big boys in terms of world-wide recognition.

A healthy arts community is a telltale sign of a city’s maturity. It won’t give the city an immediate cash fix like with property tax-style returns, but its long term benefits are invaluable. As noted in the Task Force report, beyond the obvious perks, arts funding supports education (improved SAT scores), development (entertainment for residents), the workforce (the caliber of workers you attract), jobs, and tourism (we need to be known for something other than the GWCC concrete wasteland conventioners see!).

I’m quite glad the mayor created this task force, thereby recognizing the need for increased arts funding, but we really need to move beyond the planning stages and give just a little support to the city’s already insanely creative and promising arts community. Then maybe, just maybe, Atlanta can move beyond the stigma of “the Coca-Cola city” and become an innovative U.S. arts mecca of the 21st century. (Hey, why not shoot for the moon?)

[Hattip: ATLarts]

P.S. Ain’t it kinda ironic that the AJC does an article about a lack of arts funding just months after it attempted to completely ax its book, arts, and music reviewers??