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Owensboro needs to get creative with arts funding

February 4, 2010

Looking ahead to this year, Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne said one of his priorities will be to stabilize funding for the arts.

Kim Johnson with Owensboro Dance Theatre dances to the blues song "Too Much Barbeque" during rehearsal last year of "IN CONCERT featuring Kentucky, Oh Kentucky."

The city has been a major contributor to community arts groups for years, and is essentially diverting taxpayer dollars to help support these arts organizations that add so much to this community. Arts groups here, as is the case in many cities, are struggling with the recession, and struggling with funding in general.

In an earlier editorial, we encouraged the city to continue its arts funding, and make an appeal to local businesses to step up their contributions to arts organizations. When the editorial board was discussing the issue, Publisher Bob Morris offered the idea that the city and arts groups look at establishing a payroll deduction program, similar to the way many businesses help support United Way, as a way to encourage and generate more financial support for arts groups.

Louisville, like many other cities, has the Fund for the Arts that offers major support for the operating budgets of a number of groups including the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky Opera, the Louisville Ballet and the Louisville Orchestra.

Andrew Adler with the Courier-Journal reported Sunday that these groups are faring better during these tough economic times, in part because of their own efforts to streamline operations and cut costs, but also because of the concerted efforts during the annual campaign for the Fund for the Arts.

“Our focus in this campaign is to make sure that when people reprioritize where to spend their money and their time, the arts continue to make the list,” said James S. Welch Jr., chairman of the 2010 campaign and vice chairman of Brown-Forman Corp.

The C-J editorial board did its part to encourage support for the fund with its editorial today

Just over a half century ago, Mayor Charles P. Farnsley came up with the idea of a “community chest for the arts,” and in the years since, the concept has paid off. Many cities have copied the notion. …

This newspaper is one of the local businesses that offer employees the chance to support the Fund through payroll deductions. Others are encouraged to do the same. The arts are something that Louisvillians can brag about. Let’s put our money where our pride is.

Creating the same type of mechanism to encourage support for local arts groups, and make it easier for residents to contribute should be a priority here. In Owensboro, the arts have become just as integral to quality of life as they are in Louisville, and they deserve a similar funding commitment.

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