“Overall, without a strong arts and cultural industry, Oklahoma’s ability to compete for jobs and a skilled work force would suffer.”
Erinn Gavaghan, executive director of the Norman Arts Council (NAC), said state funding allows arts to thrive but also economically supports local businesses and communities. Without those funds, “there are no arts.”
“It is very frustrating when legislators have tunnel vision and don’t see the broader impact of their cuts,” Gavaghan said. “Not just the impact on the arts, but the impact this cut would have on the entire economy of the state. That is $35 million not going back into the state economy. Is a one-tenth of 1 percent cut in the state budget worth that?”
If the bill passes, Cockroft said, nonprofit arts organizations statewide would have to rely on the private sector for donations.
Though Cockroft said relying on private donations could potentially help arts awareness as nonprofit organizations aggressively seek funding, Gavaghan said private donors already support the arts as much as they can.
In Norman, Gavaghan said arts organizations rely on the OAC, the transient guest room tax and Norman businesses and residents for donations.
Norman arts organizations receiving funding from the OAC include the NAC, Sooner Theatre, Cimarron Circuit Opera, Jazz in June, the Firehouse Art Center, Jacobson House, the Performing Arts Studio and the Norman Music Festival.
Gavaghan said the NAC uses funds received from the OAC to partner with Norman Public Schools, the Pioneer Library System and the Firehouse Art Center on arts education programs. The NAC also funds the 2nd Friday Circuit of Art.
“Those are programs that would cease to exist if funding from the Oklahoma Arts Council is eliminated. Can you imagine an impact here in Norman if we had to cease our arts education programs and eliminate 2nd Friday’s from our community?” Gavaghan said. “These are not luxuries or even ‘nice-to-have’ programs. These are programs that stimulate the Norman economy and supplement the education of Norman children.