- File photo by Jeremy M. Lange
- Members of Burning Coal Theatre Company were out in force Tuesday night. In this photo from 2008, members of the company pose in their new Murphey School space.
Last night’s Raleigh City Council meeting was packed with people, two-thirds of which were members of the city’s local arts community. (Members of the Burning Coal Theatre Company filled up two rows of seats.) These people, many of them wearing lime-green stickers on their clothing with the words “think art” on it, were there for one simple reason: to convince the council not to cut Raleigh’s arts budget.
The city’s proposed 2011—12 budget cuts funding to the City of Raleigh Arts Commission (CORAC) from $4.50 per capita down to $4. CORAC, which represents 35 arts groups and programs, already has funding that is far below the national average. Representatives for the arts community didn’t take up too much time when Mayor Charles Meeker opened up the floor to people who wanted to speak on the budget.
CORAC chairwoman Laura Raynor, along with Capital Bank CEO Grant Yarber and local artist Sandra Dubose-Gibson, stepped to the microphone and spoke briefly on how the budget should not be gutted.
“This is the fabric of our lives,” Dubose-Gibson told the council. “It’s something that we all depend on at the end of the week, to be able to have that outlet of expression and to go to the symphony and the plays and all of that kind of stuff. So, it’s not something that we can afford to take away from.”
After a few minutes of case-pleading, the members left the meeting. Downstairs, other Raleigh artists and creative types explained how the $4.50 has helped the community.
“A number of our arts organizations—newer arts organizations—have opened, and have been able to be funded by that,” said Karen Galvin, violinist for the North Carolina Symphony and board member of the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild.
“And the arts organizations that are here have flourished and have provided jobs. And those jobs and the arts that are happening in Raleigh are causing other businesses to be able to form and thrive.”
A decision will be made by the beginning of July whether or not to cut back funding. Until then, continued activism is on the agenda for the Raleigh arts community, including talking to council members individually as well as informing local arts supporters of the situation, so they can also write to council members.
“We have a great, great story to tell,” Raynor said, “and we have got to keep this rally going.”