Reviews

Editorial- Cuts in Mayor’s Arts Funding Jeopardize Neighborhood Revitalization

Art Cars at the H Street Festival.  Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

Art Cars at the 2011 H Street Festival. Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

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While the Mayor has proposed increasing the city’s capital budget to $5 million dollars per year over the next five years to support public art, he has also proposed reducing the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) grant making budget from $14.435 million in fiscal year 2013 to $6 million dollars in fiscal year 2014.  This cut will reduce the DCCAH’s grant making ability by 60 percent, impacting community-based non-profit organizations such as the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW), ARCH Development Corporation (ADC), the Atlas Theater and THEARC, just to name a few.

The link between economic development and the arts is irrefutable.  Can anyone deny that the arts helped spark the transformation of H Street NE?  It began with the opening of the H Street Playhouse, then the Atlas Theater, numerous galleries and, of course, the arts-centered H Street festival, now the most popular festival in the region which brings people to H Street in droves.   The opening of these venues coupled with the festival’s popularity led to increased interest in the neighborhood, new restaurants and retail.

In Anacostia, a similar transformation is now underway.  The owners of the H Street Playhouse have decided to cross the 11th Street bridge and re-open as the Anacostia Playhouse.  ADC will add a 10,000 square foot arts center this spring that will include a performance space and several art galleries.  The annual LUMEN8Anacostia arts festival (also run by ADC) draws hundreds of people and provides local restaurants with their single highest revenue day, the equivalent of roughly three months of business in a 12 hour period.

Much of the programming, operations and general support of arts organizations depend on grants from the DCCAH.  The grants help purchase costumes, pay electric bills and fund employee salaries.  Most arts professionals receive minimal compensation while working long hours to curate art exhibitions and produce theater programming.  In many cases, groups like CHAW are the sole providers of arts education for neighborhood children.  $15 million for arts grants is a minimal investment in a key component of our city’s infrastructure which yields enormous economic benefits.  How large is this yield?  The DCCAH estimates that the arts contribute $1.4 billion to the local economy.

Despite the importance of the arts as a catalyst for bolstering economic development and strengthening communities, in this discussion one should also never lose sight of art’s most important role- its ability to lift the human spirit through a common language that transcends class, race and gender- an intangible quality which one cannot quantify in dollars and cents.

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What can you do about increasing the DCCAH arts funding?
Contact your Council Member
Find him or her by going to www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us

Contact DC’s at-large Council Members and Council Chair:
Anita Bonds: [email protected]
David Grosso: [email protected]
David Catania: [email protected]
Phil Mendelson (Chairman):  [email protected]
Vincent Orange: [email protected]

Participate in Arts Advocacy Day on April 17 organized by DC Advocates for the Arts
For more information go to dcadvocatesforthearts.org/arts-advocacy-day

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Phil Hutinet
Authored by: Phil Hutinet

Phil Hutinet, a third generation Capitol Hill resident, is the publisher of East City Art which he began in 2010 to document and promote the growing contemporary art movement in the eastern communities of Washington, DC. In 2012-2013, his consultancy work east of the river yielded the Anacostia Playhouse, Craig Kraft Studios, the Anacostia Arts Center and the 2012-2013 LUMEN8ANACOSTIA festivals. He currently produces EMULSION, East City Art's annual regional juried show. In 2015, he coordinated the Gateway Open Studio Tour and continues to consult on numerous regional art projects. Hutinet has been interviewed by or has made appearances on the BBC, Capital Community News, Washingtonian, Washington City Paper, The Washington Post, WOL Radio, WJLA ABC News Channel 7/Channel 8, WTOP and other local and national media.