San Diego arts organizations are shocked to learn that Mayor Kevin Falcouner plans to extend the city’s slashed budget for arts and culture by one year, The art journal reports. Falcouner had cut the sector’s budget by 50% between the fiscal year ending in 2020 and that ending in 2021 in an effort to make up for the loss of tax revenue as Covid-19 loomed last spring. Although the crisis has eased somewhat, the mayor has projected a similar budget for 2021-2022, causing an uproar among local arts institutions who have until May 26 to urge their members of Congress to push forward a revised budget.
“Deep down, we are disappointed and disheartened that the mayor’s proposed budget continues the devastating cuts of last year,” said Peter Comiskey, executive director of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, which is home to many of San Diego’s cultural institutions.
“This continued reduction in funding will further reduce our ability to provide essential cultural and educational support services that contribute to mental health, environmental awareness, increased jobs, tourism, etc.” writes Karen Gilbert, chair of the board of directors of the nonprofit art institute of San Diego. (SDAI) in an open letter calling on the signatories of a petition calling on the municipal government to increase funding for the arts sector. The institute has seen its funding reduced from $ 46,000 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year to $ 17,000 for 2020-2021; to stay afloat, it merged with the Lux Art Institute. The resulting nonprofit, known as the San Diego Institute of Contemporary Art, will open in September and offer free admission. Although the merger was considered before the outbreak of the pandemic, the budget cuts suffered by the SDAI played an important role in bringing it to fruition.
Comiskey noted that prior to the advent of Covid-19, San Diego’s culture sector was a $ 1.1 billion industry employing over 36,000 full-time workers, and called the current proposed budget ” insufficient ”in terms of restoring the health of the cultural sector and in terms of restoring lost jobs. “We would have expected at least pre-pandemic funding to come back to this budget year,” he said. “The mayor did not present this either in the first budget or in the May revision. We are confident that board members will address this goal in their upcoming budget deliberations in the weeks to come.