Filed Bill Would Defund Oklahoma Arts Council

Jan 27, 2014

State lawmakers will consider a bill this session that would completely defund the Oklahoma Arts Council in four years.

The bill calls on the arts council to replace its state funding with private funding. 

"If you've got XYZ arts organization over here requesting a grant or corporate support from a big company, then you would have the arts council also asking for that support," said Jennifer James, director of Oklahomans for the Arts, an advocacy group supporting the state arts council. "It would dilute the pot of money that's already out there."

The arts council currently gets $4 million from the state, which makes up 85 percent of its budget. If passed, House Bill 2850 would take away state appropriations for the council in 25 percent chunks of its current funding. By 2018, the state would no longer give money to the arts council.

James said that would endanger the entire state's arts culture.

"We are not in a position to be able to compete with states that are much older than we are and that have had philharmonics and symphonies and ballets and opera houses and festivals for three and 400 years," James said. "We are a young state, and we are a poor state."

A study commissioned by the arts council says the arts have a $315 million economic impact in Oklahoma. Most of the council's work is dedicated to giving grants and helping arts organizations find funding.