Monroe County Executive Adam Bello on Thursday proposed a budget for the coming year that doubles public funding for small arts and culture organizations.
Its $1.34 billion spending plan allocates $1 million to what the county calls “mid-size” arts and culture groups, those with annual operating budgets between 100,000 and 1.5 million. of dollars.
The allocation doubles the amount that has been set aside for these groups in 2022 and eclipses the $45,000 that previous county governments have given to medium-sized arts and culture organizations each year for decades.
“A healthy arts community is something employers look for when looking for new sites for new investment expansion,” Bello said as he unveiled his budget in downtown Rochester.
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Public funding for arts and culture has been a focus for Bello, who courted the arts community hard during his campaign in 2019.
He met with heads of major institutions and campaigners, often telling them what they already knew and wanted to hear: that Monroe County lags behind its peers in public support for the arts and culture. Culture.
“A city our size, our art investments are well below the per capita numbers of our peer counties,” Bello told an audience of artists at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center in October 2019 to applause.
A year later, however, the first budget he proposed as county executive mirrored the arts funding model of his predecessors, much to the dismay of arts leaders who expected more and whose groups were reeling from the economic effects of the pandemic.
A CITY survey report early 2021 put a spotlight on the issue, showing much greater and more diverse investment in the arts in places like Erie and Onondaga counties than in Monroe.
The county purse strings slackened last yearand now – as Bello prepares to enter another election year – what is offered to medium-sized arts and culture organizations is at an all-time high.
In his remarks, Bello appeared to attempt to dismiss any idea that he was pandering to arts groups for re-election, suggesting such funding increases were still ongoing.
“Under previous budgets, I have consistently increased county funding for our small and medium-sized arts groups – 2023 is no different,” he said.
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But it’s different.
In addition to increased state funding for medium-sized arts groups, the administration’s spending plan provides per-post grants of $60,000 each to three organizations — Avenue Blackbox Theatre, Garth Fagan Dance and The Hochstein School. It also proposes allocating $200,000 to “support for community festivals,” which was missing from previous budgets.
The budget document explained that revenue from the hotel tax, from which funding for arts and cultural organizations comes, is expected to be significantly higher this year than last.
Bello’s spending plan maintained funding streams for nine legacy institutions that have had line-item public funding for years, with the Rochester Museum and Science Center receiving the highest amount at $900,000 and WXXI Public Media receiving the highest. smaller at $20,000.
Reenah Golden, founder and chief executive of Avenue Blackbox Theatre, welcomed the new grant for her organization. She said administration officials told her group and the two others who received $60,000 that they could expect the same amount in each of the next two years.
“We hope that will continue as well because that’s what we need as little, grassroots, grassroots people to do this job,” Golden said. “You need commitment, commitment and investment that feels like something you can count on to be able to start creating jobs and have some stability in an organization.”
Includes reporting by Jeremy Moule.
David Andreatta is the editor of CITY. He can be contacted at [email protected]