Opinion: Commentary: Call To Action…To Save the Arts

Opinion: Commentary: Call To Action…To Save the Arts

Earlier this year, County Manager Mark Schwartz submitted his recommended 2020 budget to the County Board. If implemented it will prove to be devastating to the Arlington arts community. Should the County Board opt for the lower 1 percent increase in real estate taxes, then the County Manager is further recommending a $70,000 (1/3 of the total grant budget) cut to the already very low arts grant budget. This will likely make Arlington’s arts grant budget the lowest in the region. This directly contrasts with our neighbors (Fairfax, Herndon, Falls Church and Alexandria) who are actually investing in the arts by building new black box theaters, arts districts, arts centers.

The manager’s proposed budget will essentially eliminate the Space and Services Grant program that enables the Arlington Philharmonic to bring classical music to you. The additional proposed cut to the grants fund will decrease the already dismal financial grant program which is essential to the ongoing mission and innovative efforts of the Arlington Philharmonic. The only way we can stop them at this point is to have Arlingtonians weigh in with the County Board by the hundreds, if not thousands. Everything you need to know can be found on our website (https://embracing-arlington-arts.org/fight-proposed-draconian-cuts-to-arts-in-arlington-get-involved-voice-your-concerns/).

However, the County Board has not approved this budget so we can still make a difference. But it is going to take all of us — arts patrons, supporters, our neighbors and everyone in between to fight these draconian cuts. Here is how you can help!

Email countyboard@arlingtonva.us, call (703-228-3130) the County Board to tell them these draconian proposed cuts will devastate the arts organizations in Arlington.

Some of the points you can make:

  • We recognize that Arlington County has to exercise fiscal responsibility, but an unfair portion of the cuts falls on the performing arts.

  • This is more than budget cuts and job layoffs. This is about the survival of irreplaceable institutions in our community. Once these resources are eliminated, there is no going back.

  • According to a report from the Americans for the Arts entitled "The Creative Industries: Business & Employment," Arlington County arts entities employs 6,124 peopled in 658 arts-related businesses. This represents 5.1 percent of the total number of businesses located in Arlington County. According to another economic study, over $18 million of economic activity in Arlington is derived from audience expenditures associated with arts events, including eating at restaurants, parking, ticket sales and other purchases made during their night out. These monies coming into the County go away when arts organizations fold or move to more “arts friendly” counties.

  • Space and Services for performing arts was one of the most unique grant programs in the nation and was the only area in which Arlington rose above neighboring counties to help the arts.

  • To say that arts organizations can go elsewhere to build a set and/or to hire a contractor is disingenuous. There is no other venue, and budgets are already extremely tight for these arts organizations, and will be made even worse if their grants are cut by 1/3.

  • Include your personal story. Detail how the arts in Arlington helped you personally, your family, your friends, etc. Anecdotes are the best advocacy tools.

  • Speak at the County Board FY20 Budget Work Session on April 2 at 7 p.m. (Note: You must sign up in advance: https://countyboard.arlingtonva.us/speaking-budget-tax-rate-public-hearings/?fbclid=IwAR3zzNXX72EmL25HqShVGUuBgyRtvX0Rk-zE-l1bhuRmXr-pp5HLL4FNJ38.) When you sign up, be creative in the title of your remarks. The County Board has been known at times to not let people speak if they all say they want to speak in support of the arts. Instead say things like “How Dance Helped Me” or “Painting Alleviates Stress” or “Theater Helped My Child Thrive in School,” etc.

These proposed cuts are being made because there is not a lot of vocal support for the arts. We need to raise the volume enormously to prove there is vast appreciation for the arts in Arlington, and we vote!

And please encourage your friends, colleagues, neighbors and family to do the same. Let us not become the “soulless suburb” once asserted by a senator!

Questions? Email me at president@arlingtonphilharmonic.org or janetk@embracing-arlington-arts.org.