Posted by Bruce Miller
I'm absolutely heartsick about today's news from the House Appropriations Committee. Here's a letter I've written to the T-D. I have no idea if it will run, so I'm printing it again here. PLEASE fax or call your legislators ASAP. Legislator contact information can be found on the web at http://legis.virginia.gov/1_cit_guide/contacting_my.html.
Editor - Times-Dispatch:
The House Appropriations Committee is proposing the elimination of the Virginia Commission for the Arts. I have been the artistic director of Theatre IV, The Children's Theatre of Virginia, for the last 35 years. In an effort to create significant cost efficiencies, the staff of Theatre IV also has managed Barksdale Theatre for the last 8 1/2 years.
As a nonprofit administrator, I have always been trained to speak publicly only of success. With regard to this new proposal, it would be irresponsible for me to pretend optimism when I know first-hand the certain disaster that will follow the passage of such misguided legislation.
Every day, Theatre IV and Barksdale, two of our state's most exemplary nonprofits, deal with the fact that Virginia historically and consistently funds the arts at a level lower than any state in our region. We continue to serve over 600,000 Virginians annually, despite the fact that the legislature eliminated direct funding of arts organizations four years ago, and over the last two years has already reduced indirect funding (through the Virginia Commission for the Arts) by 30%.
In the last 16 months, Theatre IV and Barksdale have eliminated 6 positions and have plans to eliminate 2 more (20% of our lean work force). We have reduced salaries by up to 17%, cancelled company contributions to retirement plans, and increased the percentage of health insurance premiums that must be paid by the employee. To adjust to the eliminated positions, many on our staff work 80-hour work weeks just to keep our nonprofit companies alive.
The elimination of state funding to the Virginia Commission for the Arts will cost Theatre IV and Barksdale Theatre an additional $190,000 per year. That will mean the elimination of seven more jobs. Despite all our best efforts, we will not be able to operate under these conditions.
What the House Appropriations Committee is proposing is the elimination of the nonprofit arts infrastructure that tens of thousands of hard-working Virginians have taken decades to build. Hundreds of jobs will be lost. The economic repercussions will not be positive; they will be disastrous.
To avoid causing lasting harm to economic development, education, tourism and quality of life, please ask your legislators to oppose the current proposal of the House Appropriations Committee.
Artistic Director, Theatre IV and Barksdale Theatre