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Monday, March 2, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 9.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Arts Beat: Scott Walker's budget slashes Wisconsin arts funding
Overture Center, other local organizations would be affected
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Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget will zero out funding for the Wisconsin Arts Board and move the agency to the Department of Tourism.

George Tzougros, Arts Board executive director, expects Madison-area arts organizations will be hurt. The Overture Center for the Arts alone will take a $21,000 hit in its next fiscal year, owing to the loss of state funds.

Under the governor's proposed budget, the Arts Board's overall funding will drop from $3.7 million to nothing. Dollars for certain programs will remain, but under tourism.

The Arts Board currently receives federal arts funding, which the state must match. Wisconsin previously overmatched the federal contribution as an investment in the state.

"It's now basically said that we'll do [only] what the feds are doing, and that this is how we'll save money," says Tzougros. "What that means is going from $2.4 million for state aid to the arts, and dropping down to $759,000," under tourism.

About 15 local arts agencies around the state will be impaired, owing to the loss of state funds. Affected agencies include the City of Madison Arts Commission. Funding for the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission will not be affected.

"What we're left with to make grants at the Arts Board does not even begin to approach fully funding the requests that are in front of us," says Tzougros. Besides Overture, he expects the Madison Symphony and Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society to be hurt.

Six of the Arts Board staff's 10 positions will be eliminated under the proposed budget. It's presumed - but not guaranteed - that the remaining positions, including Tzougros', will be merged with tourism.

Former Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton continues to serve as Arts Board chair. She could not be immediately reached for comment. Other arts advocates are already speaking out against Walker's proposed budget.

"This is a move that will not only cut funding for arts and cultural opportunities for Wisconsin residents, but will have a negative effect on Wisconsin's ability to invest in economic development, education for the 21st century, and quality-of-life issues, and compete in the global economy," says Anne Katz, executive director of Arts Wisconsin, the state's private nonprofit arts advocacy organization.

Arts Wisconsin's annual Arts Day, a Capitol lobbying effort, was long ago scheduled for March 2 and 3. Katz expects it to still take place, despite the ongoing Capitol lockdown.

Says Katz, "It's even more important to have Arts Day with the results of the governor's budget in hand, whether we can get into the Capitol or not."

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