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Challenging the Issue of Arts Funding

October 31, 1987|ZAN DUBIN

SAN FRANCISCO — Last month, the California Arts Council officially launched a historic effort to increase its budget by seeking some direct private funding rather than relying exclusively on the state Legislature.

On Thursday, Anne G. Murphy, director of the American Arts Alliance, the national arts advocacy organization, appeared to challenge that concept.

"If we take care of our public (arts support), Murphy said, "believe me, the private (support) will take care of itself."

Murphy's remarks carried considerable weight at the 12th annual Congress of the Arts run here by the California Confederation of the Arts. The Arts Alliance is the national organization to which state arts lobbying groups such as the California Confederation generally look to for direction.

Murphy also warned that as a result of the Oct. 19 stock-market collapse, "you'll also see major changes in private (individual and foundation) giving, if not corporate giving."

In late September, at Gov. George Deukmejian's urging, the council went to the Finance Department to approve a fiscal 1988 budget recommendation that includes a request for a radically different $1.85-million grant program. The California Challenge Program, if approved, will require arts institutions to match their grants exclusively with new or increased private dollars. Council grant recipients have traditionally been allowed to match awards with private and public money.

The program could raise the council's $14.5-million budget--which has not increased annually by more than $1 million since Deukmejian took office in 1983--by $4 million. However, it also represents a budget request for funds free of the new matching requirements that is about one-third the size of such requests since 1983.

According to Murphy, a recent drop-off in private giving has occurred nationwide, because the Reagan Administration has continually sent a signal to the country that "the National Endowment for the Arts is not important" by annually recommending that its budget be severely cut. (For fiscal 1988, the Administration has requested a $17-million reduction of the Endowment's $165.2-million budget.)

"What's happened on the federal level, is happening on the state level," Murphy told about 350 confederation members gathered at the Cathedral Hill Hotel for the three-day convention titled "Public/Private Partnerships?"

Murphy's approach differs dramatically from the council's new strategy expressed Thursday by council Director Robert H. Reid. "We're proposing a program that's asking the private sector to drive the public sector--that increased private support will mean increased public support," he said.

However, brandishing a metal button bearing the slogan "Art Outlives Politics," Reid said the confederation and the council share the common objective of more money for the arts.

It's important to remember that the (California Challenge) program does not wipe out existing grant programs, added Reid, "and that if properly successful, each year that money from the Challenge part of the new program kicks into the Council's budget, it becomes part of the Council's base-line budget" applicable the next year to all its programs.

Reid also responded to a concern previously voiced by some art advocates that the Challenge program will fail to generate its private matching money without a public relations campaign led by Gov. Deukmejian.

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