JACKSON ARTS COUNCIL FUNDING SLASHED TO ZERO IN BRUTAL BUDGET CUT
City Council, Mayor’s Office Blindsided By Decision To Gut Community Agency
(Jackson, MS) – The City of Jackson has defunded its officially designated arts agency in a shocking budget move.
For the first time since its inception in 1981, the Greater Jackson Arts Council (GJAC) will receive no funding support from the City. “This move is devastating,” Janet Scott, GJAC Executive Director said. “And it strikes right at the heart of underserved communities, artists of color and low-income students. I understand the City’s budget challenges and expected some sort of funding reduction. But to be zeroed out without any discussion? It’s a slap in the face to the citizens we’ve served for the last thirty-five years.”
City Council President Tyrone Hendrix went on social media to say the governing body was “blindsided” by the move while Mayor Tony Yarber maintained defunding was “not the plan” and demanded answers from staffers.
“Ending support for the arts council is not an insignificant action,” Jon Salem, GJAC Assistant Director said. “At the very least it deserves a thoughtful examination and debate. Many people are already asking if the arts council was sacrificed to protect some questionable budget decisions within the City.”
At stake is a wide array of positive, community friendly services. GJAC offers a grants program for arts groups, schools, artists and neighborhood associations, free downtown concerts, a public art initiative, management of the Arts Center of Mississippi as an exhibition gallery and affordable venue space, and special assistance to artists and cultural advocacy efforts.
Festivals and performances and educational outreach that make a city live and breathe are major economic drivers. GJAC is also a catalyst to funnel grant money to the citizens of Jackson from regional, state and national entities, a role that is now in jeopardy.
Ultimately, this decision will hurt the citizens—people like Thabi Moyo, an active cultural arts programmer. “The ability to reach out to an organization like GJAC that is able to turn around funding in a short period is vital when you are trying to make a difference in your community,” Moyo said.
“Defunding the arts council is not a progressive move for Jackson,” Stacey Ferreri, GJAC Board President said. “It will cut off opportunities for people and organizations that have no other place to go for support. We’re all sympathetic to the fiscal crisis. But is this really the best the City can do?”
Current and former recipients of GJAC support (grantees, musicians, etc.) are encouraged to share their stories on the Greater Jackson Arts Council Facebook Page and on Instagram using #SaveTheArts.
Kingfish note: Here is the 2014 990. Some quick figures:
Total revenue: $441,557
Executive Director salary and benefits: $55,249
Government grants: $329,200
Total salaries and benefits: $171,089 (Includes ED)
JCVB program: $58,317
Special arts & events: $42,446