America's arts in crisis as hard-up states threaten to suspend all funding

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The Independent US

Culture inthe United States is in acute crisis as state governments across the country ponder eliminating funding for the arts entirely to help to bridge some of the worst budget deficits in decades.

Culture inthe United States is in acute crisis as state governments across the country ponder eliminating funding for the arts entirely to help to bridge some of the worst budget deficits in decades.

To the abject dismay of many arts advocates, at least three states have put forward plans to suspend all funding for cultural organisations for the foreseeable future. The first state to take such drastic action is likely to be Arizona.

The extraordinary measures threaten to strangle cultural institutions both large and small and deny access for residents of those states and tourists to any kind of serious artistic endeavour. Any hope for survival will rest on private donations.

Politicians in Arizona will soon begin debating proposals to shut its state arts agency for a saving of about $5.1m (£3.2m). They also recommend that a state endowment of $7m for arts programmes in the state be scrapped.

Similar measures are being considered in New Jersey and Missouri – at a time when state governors are enacting a variety of extreme budget cuts to repel the tide of red ink. Kentucky recently began releasing prisoners early to save money.

Arts in the United States have never enjoyed the kind of government support seen in most European countries. The prospect of state governments abandoning their responsibilities towards culture altogether is something new, however.

Making matters worse, private donations to the arts are also drying up as the squeeze on the economy tightens.

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