Oklahoma House Bill 1895 would cut Arts Council funding

TULSA - A bill filed by an Oklahoma state representative would eliminate state funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council within four years.

Filed Friday, HB 1895 would cut money appropriated to the Council by at least 25 percent every year until 2017.

READ THE FULL BILL (http://bit.ly/HB1895)

Representative Josh Cockroft authored the bill and wrote about his proposal in a recent blog post.

"The question each of us must ask is if we are properly funding the core functions of state government," Cockroft said. " ... My goal is not to destroy the arts in Oklahoma, but rather to start a discussion of what our responsibilities are."

The sophomore representative estimates the measure would save Oklahoma around $4 million.

Cockroft cited an article published last March by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a state think tank, as the basis for the legislation.

Arts funding is not a "core function of government," wrote author Jonathan Small in the piece.

"The Arts Council can operate solely from donations and self-generated funds, without receiving state appropriations," Small said. "Promotion of the arts is a nonprofit interest, which should not be advantaged over other nonprofit efforts that do not receive state appropriations."

READ THE FULL ARTICLE (http://bit.ly/OCPAart)

In response to the bill's filing, Oklahomans for the Arts, a nonprofit arts advocacy organization, posted an impassioned plea to its supporters and called HB1895 "a challenge that will require thoughtful, strategic and well-timed communication between arts advocates and their individual legislators."

Oklahomans for the Arts Executive Director Jennifer McCollum also forecasted "the largest grassroots campaign for public funding for the arts in the Oklahoma Arts Council's nearly 50-year history."

The Oklahoma Arts Council responded to the proposed legislation, saying "a strong arts and cultural industry is vital to producing a skilled and creative workforce." The full statement is available at arts.ok.gov .

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