The canvas may be blank for arts council

June 17, 2008 11:00 pm

The Central Sierra Arts Council board of directors has eliminated the executive director's position.

The council survived crisis before. Earlier in the decade the council's financial management was in question. The board addressed it by taking the finances to an outside accounting firm.

The 38 year-old council has watched as neighboring arts councils in San Joaquin and Alpine counties have become inactive. Of the state's 58 counties, 44 have arts councils and nine arts councils are inactive.

The recent elimination of the executive director's position was budgetary driven. At its annual membership meeting Monday night, Bob Casey, board president said, "The board essentially voted to suspend the paid ED position because we can't afford that drain."

In challenging financial times, people do tend to give their donations to organizations that nourish the body rather than the soul, but Tuolumne and Calaveras counties have large and varied arts communities which enrich our lives as well as attract thousands of visitors to our galleries, workshops, studios, storefronts, fairs and Internet sites. Art, and all its cousins, are one of our area's economic drivers.

Tight money is nothing new to the arts community. State funding of the arts continues to decline, although Casey said the Central Sierra Arts Council received more money from the California Arts Council this year, a exception to a downward trend. He added the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors gave the arts council $5,000 last year, but none this year, and he is pessimistic they will get any for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Arts council programs nurture our young people, many of whom go on to study with well-known artists throughout the region, state and world.

During an informal conversation of young artists hosted by the arts council in March, this group voiced their concern for the future of art and artists in this area. This group of young returning artists asked the arts council to "partner with us," to help nurture and keep young artists in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.

We do need to find partnerships and grants for our community's artistic endeavors, whether they be in schools or in studios to keep this creative segment of our community vibrant. The arts council board president said of the organization, "I can keep it operating if the board steps up and volunteers step up. It needs to grow. It can't continue this way forever." Let's step up.