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Illinois Art Programs Facing 20 percent funding cuts

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to cut funding to the Illinois Arts Council by 20 percent is causing a Chicago group to worry it will have to scale back its art programs.

The Chicago Public Art Group fears a ripple effect in state cuts will lead to a reduction in youth, community and development activities in the over 40-year-old nonprofit organization.

“With this particular cut, Governor Rauner is moving a great piece of what (arts) organizations urgently need to provide quality services and quality opportunities and experiences for young people, and that’s a shame,” said Jon Pounds, executive director of the Chicago Public Art Group.

Art murals fill the walls of the CTA Pink Line station on 18th Street in Pilsen. Photo Credit: Cara Ball
Art murals fill the walls of the CTA Pink Line station on 18th Street in Pilsen. Photo Credit: Cara Ball

Chicago Public Art Group connects artists to different city communities to create quality public art pieces, including wall murals under the north branch of Lakeshore Drive and various projects at playgrounds and neighborhoods on the South and West Sides of the city.

“The grant cuts are going to make it harder to do those projects because the money that is available to do the projects does not cover general operating support,” Pounds said.

The group relies on grants to help cover overhead expenses, as well as programming and project expenses like labor and equipment, Pounds said.

For the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the Chicago Public Art Group received just one grant of $9,350 from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, which was in charge of distributing 690 grants totaling $4,892,870 in state money, according to the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Shirley Madigan, chairman of the Illinois Arts Council Agency, declined requests for comment. Madigan is married to Michael Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Now that the remainder of the 2015 fiscal year budget has been frozen and slashes totaling roughly $2 million are expected, Pounds said the group will have to figure out what corners to cut in order to stay afloat on an already tight budget.

“Now we have to figure out how to get by or replace the funding,” Pounds said.

That may call for seeking out additional donations from the community, or other programs that may provide grants for arts programs.

Proponents for the expansion and preservation of arts programs within the state expressed frustration with the planned cuts.

[pullquote]“These draconian cuts would be devastating to artists and cultural organizations across the state,”[/pullquote] Ra Joy, executive director of Art Alliance Illinois, an arts advocacy organization, said in an emailed statement.

Gov. Bruce Rauner did not respond to requests for comment.

Going forward, Joy said, her organization will continue to let state officials know they will remain active in pushing for expanded opportunities for Illinois arts programs and encouraged others who care for community arts programs to “stand up tall” and join their network of art activists in an effort to keep arts programs alive in Illinois..

“Arts Alliance Illinois and our many partners are working to protect Illinois’ investment in culture and the arts by actively engaging with the Rauner administration and leaders from the general assembly to reinforce how these deep cuts are counterproductive and do nothing to stimulate economic growth,” Joy said.

On Feb 3 The Illinois Arts Council Agency announced its guidelines and applications for 2016 funding were open. The deadline to apply is March 16.

Details of the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget can be found online.

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