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Justice’s budget would cut fairs, festivals funding


Charleston Gazette-Mail

West Virginia’s fairs and festivals and other arts programs would have their state funding stripped away in a budget proposed by Gov. Jim Justice.

Justice’s proposed budget calls for a $4.3 million cut to the state Division of Culture and History, which includes the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and the State Historic Preservation Office.

The budget cut would affect all of the agency’s $4.3 million in regular lottery funding, which “contains funding for various items such as fairs and festivals, symphonies, Historic Preservation Grants [and] many other items of this type,” Mike McKown, state budget director, said in an email Thursday.

The Division of Culture and History also has $4.8 million in its general revenue budget and receives other special and federal revenue, McKown said.

No one from the Division of Culture and History was available to comment Thursday.

Several agencies that receive funding from the division are concerned about what the cut might mean for their programs.

FestivALL, Charleston’s annual arts and music festival, gets three percent or $14,000 of its budget from that line in the state budget, director Brittany Javins said.

“I would say any funding source we get is an important part of what we do,” Javins said.

Javins said the annual event draws tourists. Last year FestivALL had 15,000 attendees at events. About 8 percent of them stayed in paid overnight lodging, she said.

“At the end of the day, I look at what we do as being an important [part of] tourism in Charleston and in our state,” she said.

Kim Pauley, director of the Charleston Ballet, said less than 10 percent of the organization’s budget comes from Division of Culture and History, but the agency provides the program with its single largest grant.

“So we’re all quite concerned about that, for sure,” Pauley said. “Whenever you have a new administration, it seems like the arts are an easy thing to cut  I think if people really thought about it, [the arts] play a much more important role in people lives — especially young people’s.”

The arts can keep kids in school, give them a creative outlet and boost their self-esteem, she said.

The Charleston Ballet does a spring and fall performance, as well as a performance of “The Nutcracker” during the holidays.

The West Virginia Symphony gets 10 percent of its budget from the Division of Culture and History, said president Joe Tackett. It also has another line in the budget for education and touring expenses, Tackett said.

“While we’re watching the budget closely, we anticipate that our lawmakers will make the right decision,” Tackett said. “[They] recognize the value of funding the arts.”

Tackett said the symphony is an economic driver. Half of the shows it does are outside the city of Charleston, Tackett said. He said the symphony is committed to being for the entire state of West Virginia and to continue to do educational programs in schools. If the cut goes through, officials will examine all of its programs and decide what to cut, Tackett said.

“We are very lucky to live in a state that really values the arts,” Tackett said.

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