Making a little room for art

City Council supporting Arts Commission is a start

We applaud the Chico City Council for unanimously approving the Chico Arts Commission’s revised work plan during its meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 17). We also commend the Arts Commission for its efforts to mitigate the amount of impact its work plan will have on city staff. (See photo caption in “On the chopping block,” Newslines, by Robert Speer, page 10).

Like the other volunteer-run commissions on hand at the meeting, the Arts Commission was to forced to revise its previous list of goals and priorities in response to the city’s recent budget cuts. For the Arts Commission, those cuts went especially deep, as the panel lost the city’s only arts-dedicated staff member with the layoff of the arts-projects coordinator.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the council was very receptive to the changes and encouraged by the Arts Commission’s commitment to coming up with alternative ways of funding the arts (especially given the news of the growing budget deficit announced earlier in the meeting) through potential partnerships with other arts organizations and the transformation of the local-arts-supporting Chico Arts Foundation into a 501c3 nonprofit.

Of course, the benefits from any outside cooperation and potential grant opportunities are years away, at best, and the city’s financial situation is only getting worse. So, the degree to which arts will be supported in Chico over the next few years is still very much up in the air.

But, putting arts-funding concerns aside for a moment, it was refreshing to hear the City Council’s response to the Arts Commission and the vocal arts community that was on hand, and have public acknowledgement of the value of Chico being an arts town. Most of the council members expressed their support, pointing to both art and the Arts Commission as benefits to the economic development of Chico, and the value of art in making Chico such a desirable place to live and visit.

We hope that such clarity of art’s role in the vitality of the community and the expressions of good will carry over to the near future when some obviously tough budget decisions will be before the council.

It’s unfair and unhealthy to continue to make disproportionately deep cuts to a budget item that already receives such a minuscule portion of the pie. Times may be tough, but without art they’d be unbearable.