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Moratorium stuns art groups

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Moratorium stuns art groups

Grannolm's order freezes state cultural grants to deal with budget crisis


News Arts Writer

Arts and cultural organizations in Ann Arbor and the rest of Michigan are reeling from a moratorium on state grant expenditures issued this week by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to deal with the budget crisis.

The moratorium, which takes effect on Wednesday, freezes payments to arts and cultural organizations through Sept. 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year,

“This is probably going to reach over hundreds of thousands of dollars just in our own community that we’re losing,” said Tamara Real, director of the Arts Alliance of the Ann Arbor Area.

She said Arts Alliance will lose $21,800, which would have been passed on to 13 smaller local groups through its mini-grant program.

Among the groups affected are The Ann Arbor Book Festival, Dancing in the Streets, the Neutral Zone and Chelsea Center for the Arts.

Grants by the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs for 2007 were announced in September, but the actual payments are made in installments that vary according to the nature of the grant.

Across the state, nearly $10.1 million was awarded in 300 grants and officials say only a small amount of money has been disbursed so far.

The University Musical Society, awarded $259,000 for fiscal year 2007 and the largest grant recipient in Washtenaw County, stands to lose $169,000, which represents 2.5 percent of its annual $7 million budget, UMS President Kenneth Fischer said Monday night.

Fischer called the governor’s move “short-sighted.” He said he will urge Granholm and legislators to remove the freeze.

“This state needs to understand that its future is in the creative economy,” Fischer said. “I don’t think I’ve been as upset about anything the state has done as I am at this sorry move at this particular time, when the state needs a strong quality-of-life component to be able to attract the kind of businesses we want here.”

The Ark, meanwhile, stands to lose $6,700 of the $10,500 grant it would have received to help support the 2007 Ann Arbor Folk Festival, said Marianne James, development director. “It’s not a devastating loss, but it’s the idea that we are a part of a cultural tapestry is beginning to unravel," she said.

The Ann Arbor Summer festival will also feel the impact. "We have a total of $8,700 in funds we may not receive from the state," said Robb Woulfe, executive director.

Other local groups that MCACA funding include the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, the Ann Arbor Art Center; the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Michigan Theater and Art-Train.

Meanwhile, real said, the show-or in this case, shows-will go on.

"The cultural organizations in Washtenaw County are extremely well run by and large, and this is not a death knell for anyone. I'm sure most programs will be able to go forward pretty much as planned, although in the case of the mini-grants, some organizations will simply not be able to present the activities for which they had requested funds," she said.

Arts and cultural leaders are also bracing themselves for further state cuts for 2008.