In January when Mayor Bloomberg announced major reforms in city funding for the arts, the one bitter pill for arts groups was the $4.3 million reduction in funding for members of the Cultural Institutions Group, the 34 arts organizations that occupy city-owned property. At a public hearing at City Hall yesterday, members of the CIG told the chair of City Council's cultural affairs committee, Domenic Recchia, that, if not restored, the shortfall would necessitate cuts in education programs, security staff, or operating hours.
Pointing out that the City's budget is healthy, and that Governor Spitzer has proposed a $5 million increase in state funding for the arts, the chair of the CIG and the director of the Queens Museum of Art, Tom Finkelpearl, argued that the CIG members should not be singled out for cuts. He listed the programs at each institution that would suffer or be cut entirely, and asked the Council for baseline funding equivalent to what the CIG received in 2002, adjusted for inflation.
Representatives of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Carnegie Hall, and the American Museum of Natural History testified about how the proposed decrease in their funding would endanger education programs and security operations. "With the United States currently ranked 17th in the world in science literacy — just behind Bulgaria," the director of intergovernmental relations at the Museum of Natural History, Daniel Slippen, said, "this is not a time for science education funding to be reduced in our city."
In others cases, according to CIG members, cuts would affect programming — in the case of Shakespeare in the Park, the reduction of the summer season to nine weeks from 10.
In baselining the CIG budget, the mayor and the cultural affairs commissioner, Kate Levin, essentially asked the CIG to trade some of their funding for greater stability and not having to do the budget dance. But, as yesterday's hearing showed, the dance isn't over yet.