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Arts Commission to share duties with regional groups

April 19, 2010

The Indiana Arts Commission will share grant-making duties with regional partners under a restructuring plan approved Friday.

The commission revamped the way it allocates money out of concern about future state budget cuts, which would further reduce grants available to arts organizations. The restructuring will reduce the state agency's administrative costs by about $344,000, with the savings going back into the pool of grant funds for arts groups.

Following a 30-percent reduction in the state's last biennial budget session, the arts commission's budget is about $3.2 million this year. If state tax revenue continues to drop, the budget could be reduced further in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Statewide, 10 regional partner groups redistribute Indiana Arts Commission grants and provide other support to artists and organizations in their territories. The central Indiana partner is the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

The restructuring plan would reduce the amount of money that regional partners receive for general programming and technical assistance by 64 percent, arts commission spokesman Rex Van Zant said. Regional partners now receive an average of $27,000 a year for general purposes. 

Under the recently approved plan, regional partners will continue to oversee grants for large arts groups such as the Indianapolis Opera or Indianapolis Civic Theatre. After hearing input from the regional groups, Van Zant said the commission agreed that "it would diminish their profile and influence if they were no longer working with the largest organizations."

The pool of money for those groups would increase by about 53 percent from $337,731 currently to $519,125, Van Zant said. The pool of funds for smaller groups will increase as well, but the arts commission staff in Indianapolis will oversee those grants.

Regional partners also will handle project-specific grants, which often go to schools or libraries, Van Zant said.

As IBJ reported last month, the proposed restructuring raised concerns among regional partners that have counted on a certain level of administrative funding from the state organization. Some regional arts administrators felt the commission was abolishing the regional-partner system, which was created 13 years ago to make arts available in all 92 counties.

Another aspect of the restructuring, which will take effect in 2012, is that other not-for-profit organizations—such as community foundations—will be able to compete for the opportunity to administer local arts grants. Van Zant said that does not mean the commission is abolishing the regional-partner system. 

The new grant-making hierarchy takes effect July 1.

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