All TAP’d out — State kills all funding for local arts group
When Bay Area guitarist Matthew Montfort played a gig in Spain recently, he was struck by the arts budget for a town about the size of Santa Cruz being larger than the entire state of California’s.
Its budget for arts and music programs exceeds the California Arts Council’s $1 million. Last year, the organization spent $18 million on the arts. Years ago, the Golden State spent double that.
The latest victim in a state budget crisis, the Tahoe Arts Project, is getting no money from the arts council this year. About a quarter of its $100,000 operating budget was provided by the state last year. TAP had expected at least $15,000 from the state this year.
“We are suffering greatly. There it’s not whether they support the arts, but it’s a matter of what they can afford. Here it’s if we can even do it,” said Montfort, who plans to play guitar in the Tahoe Arts Project’s Ancient Future show next spring.
The nonprofit group, which was formed 17 years ago by Harriet Goldman, puts on fine arts performances and shows.
“We have to find the money in other ways,” TAP Executive Director Peggy Aguilar-Thompson said. “We’re going to have to cut programs or Tahoe Arts Project will have to fold.”
Critics contend the impact has reverberated across the state, with the trickle-down effect meaning lost jobs — possibly up to 400,000 — and fewer tourism dollars in the $16.75 billion industry, California Arts Council Executive Director Barry Hessenious reported.
“We’re dead last in per capita state funding in the United States. This is just unfathomable to us. It shows a shortsightedness. Creativity drives this economy,” he said, figuring the mere million amounts to 3 cents per person.
U.S. arts spending is estimated at $1.25 per person.
Arts’ supporters like Aguilar-Thompson, Montfort and Hessenious have seen many arts’ organizations struggle in small towns — including South Lake Tahoe where Montfort is booked to play March 27.
To maintain its schedule, Aguilar-Thompson is soliciting more donations from the South Shore business community, service clubs and individuals.
She got the word out at Wednesday’s Soroptimist gathering and plans to attend the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce meeting today.
During its current membership drive, Aguilar-Thompson put the appeal in writing.
TAP also receives money from Nevada, which also decreased its funding from $8,000 to $5,000. The schools give $14,000 through groups like booster clubs.
“‘We’re hoping people will step up to the plate,” she said. “Another way to help us is to see our performances.”
Aguilar-Thompson, who has worked for TAP for 11 years, understands the plight of the schools and families with youngsters attending them too. She has a daughter in high school.
“I’ve been writing checks since she started,” she said.
One could argue an appreciation of the arts starts early.
“When I was a little girl, we always had a group coming in doing music and dance,” she said.
— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org