Anchorage arts at risk after the elimination of Alaska State Council on the Arts

Movie theater seats, Photo Date: 8/25/2009 / Photo: Beatrice Murch / CC BY 2.0 / (MGN)
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Many non-profits are feeling the financial strain of the governor's budget cuts and that includes arts organizations that might already be on the brink. Two arts groups in Anchorage say this could be the end of a vibrant arts community.

These arts organizations say the biggest blow in the budget is the elimination of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, a major grant distributor of both state and national funding. Grants already awarded won't have checks attached and these small non-profits are questioning future funding.

Reed Smith, general director of the Anchorage Opera asks, "Why is it always the arts that they cut first?"

It’s the question several arts organizations are asking after the $2.8 million budget line item that funds the Alaska State Council on the Arts was eliminated.

"The first thing that popped in my mind was just a healthy reminder that government funds can dry up like that," says Matt Fernandez, executive director of Anchorage Community Theater.

He says that while the grant money his organization received from the ASCA was helpful, it's not a huge detriment to his upcoming season -- but it could be in the future, as many other organizations will be looking for supplemental funding in the same places.

“I've got to work hard. It takes a lot of work to keep this thing going and that means work harder at fundraising at becoming an even more appealing arts organizations to funders here in town,” says Fernandez

But this may not be an option for other arts organizations.

"A week before the announcement of the cuts came out, we were notified that we would be receiving a two-year grant. So that is funding for two years. So it was like, 'wow all that work that went into that and now there is nothing there,'" says Smith.

The Anchorage Opera’s operating budget relies on ASCA grants as well as awards from the National Endowment of the Arts which was distributed by the state council.

These arts organizations say a state without arts funding could make it a less appealing place to live.

“What is the reputation of Alaska and Anchorage going down the road? A cultural wasteland?”

And possibly, close the curtain, on the art scene in the state.

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