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Arts groups worry about looming state budget cuts

Delaware Public Media

As state lawmakers try to hammer out a last minute budget deal, arts advocates are worried steep cuts could leave arts programs bare in the First State.

The Joint Finance Committee has proposed cutting $550 thousand – almost 20 percent – of the total state arts budget.

"It would impact our constituents the most. It would significantly reduce our ability to award grants again to arts organizations, to community organizations, to municipalities that are doing summer concert series and the like," Delaware Division of the Arts Executive Director Paul Weagraff said. 

The DDOA is the main arts funding distributor in the state. 

Mix those state funding cuts with uncertainty surrounding funding for the national Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, and the future could look bleak for arts in Delaware. 

Delaware Arts Alliance, an arts advocacy group, says the sector is a top ten employer for the state, generating $10.5 million annually. 

"We understand that everyone has to pay a certain price, but you don’t have to jeopardize a revenue stream that might be coming to the state," DAA Executive Director Guillermina Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez said after expecting a four or five percent drop in funding, state arts groups were blindsided by the deep cuts proposed by the JFC.

But with lawmakers trying to fill $350 million budget hole by midnight July 1, that argument may not be strong enough. 

Several Democratic and Republican lawmakers declined to comment for this story. 

Delaware Public Media' s arts coverage is made possible, in part, by support from theDelaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.