Grants smaller but arts groups still thankful

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Capital News Service
LANSING – Although aid from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs was only $1.5 million this year, down dramatically from $7.9 million last year, recipients say they’re happy to get anything.
“I planned our budget on getting zero from the grants this year, so to me it was $7,500 that we didn’t expect,” said Liz Ahrens, executive director of Crooked Tree Arts Council in Petoskey. “We’ve a million dollar operating budget, and the grant definitely helps us in art exhibitions, concerts and programs for students,”
The council received almost twice as much in 2009.
“It’s a nice surprise and it contributes overall to our programs that we offer to our community,” Ahrens said of the 2010 grant.
Despite the chop in state support, she said the council hasn’t raised its prices.
Cultural organizations in other parts of the northern Lower Peninsula report similar experiences.
For example, Pam Westover, executive director of the Cheboygan Area Arts Council, said, “Everybody has to tighten the belt and try to hang on. But we’re aware of the cut, we’re more prepared.”
The council also received $7,500, about half of its grant last year.
The largest grants from the state council went to the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Edison Institute and College for Creative Studies in Wayne County and Interlochen Center for the Arts, each receiving $20,000.
Many organizations didn’t bother to apply because they had been cutting staffs and didn’t have enough staff to write the grant proposals, according to Ahrens.
The Association for Harbor Arts in Harbor Springs, one of the cultural institutions which has never received direct state grants, is working hard to keep its operation going.
“Funding is a big problem since stage production cost is skyrocketing. It’s getting harder and harder,” said Sulane Hamilton, president of the association.
The association has received some general grants from local agencies like the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. “It’s not as generous as previous years but we appreciate it, considering the economy,” Hamilton said.
Although funding is not as bountiful as in the past, the association still tries to maintain its programs, she said.
“We have one major musical production, we support young adult community theatre and the other half of our mission is scholarships supporting individuals in the arts,” Hamilton said.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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