Art advocates concerned by cuts

Suzy Tolen, a third year communication design major, admires the Chico Art Center's gallery with Dylan Tellensen, a second-year fine art graduate student.Photo credit: Annie Paige

After a year of tough budget cuts and layoffs, community members are worried that Chico will soon cut funding to local arts programs.

The city’s dire financial challenges have been an issue for a while now and members of the Chico community believe cuts are inevitable when the City Council approves a new budget in June, said Mark Orme, assistant city manager.

Funding from the city makes up a tenth of the Chico Art Center’s budget,
said Debra Simpson, business manager at the center. They are able to use this money to give scholarships to children who cannot afford classes.

We do an art in the park project in conjunction
with the Downtown Chico Business Association, and we’ve been able to fund that
every year with help from the city,” Simpson said. “I don’t know how we’re going to be able to
do that next year.”

The city will continue to help pay for the program through June, which marks the end of the fiscal year. If the new budget reduces funding, the Chico Art Center will be unable to continue its program for the remainder of the summer, Simpson said.

As for individual artists,
the programs and opportunities available to sell
and show their art will be scarce, said Erin Wells, a volunteer at the Chico Art Center.

It’s not just paintings and sculptures — it’s
plays and music,”
Wells said. “There won’t be as many venues that are paid for by the city or

Some organizations in Chico are here to support local artists and their work, said

Robert Herhusky, a member of the Chico Art Center and chair of Chico State’s art and art history department.

Well, I don’t think there has been much city
support for individual artists,”
Herhusky said. “But for some of the nonprofit venues they
support, like the 1078 Gallery and the Chico Art Center, these are certainly good
for local artists and for local lovers of art that want to go see their work.”

When cuts need to be made, the arts are often the first to go, he said.

The city of Chico has always tried to be a good
supporter of the arts,”
Herhusky said. “But I think the given budget situations and
problems that it’s facing are just pragmatic realities of the city’s budget
that meant that they had to scale back on the arts funding,”

In response to possible cuts, the Chico Arts Commission is going to conduct a study through the nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts to prove the economic importance of the arts in Chico, Wells said.

The arts can bring a lot of visitors to the city and also attract new dwellers, because the arts make a community more livable, Wells said.

“They influence everything we do, every single
day,” Wells said. “Whether it be live plays, beautiful music, wonderful paintings, sculpture — even landscaping is an art and Chico has it all, and it’s very important.”

Madison Holmes can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.