Legislative leadership released the draft of the FY2016 budget yesterday.

The budget proposal, which reduces the Oklahoma Arts Council’s budget by 7.25%, will reduce the ability of arts and culture organizations to improve our state’s communities, economy and education including providing access to citizens who might not otherwise have it.

While we know the Legislature faced difficult decisions in this budget process with a large projected shortfall, arts advocates cannot be satisfied with these reduction of funds to improve and distinguish our state with arts and culture programming and education.

We will learn more about this budget’s impact over time. Meanwhile, we know:

  • The Oklahoma Arts Council faces a 7.25% budget reduction, which means $274,406 less in funding and infrastructure support for the arts and culture sector.  These cuts will have a direct negative impact on communities across the state, decreasing community programming and limiting educational experiences.
  • This is a multiple year policy direction. Over the past 7 years, the Oklahoma Arts Council’s budget has been reduced by 32%. The Oklahoma Arts Council’s budget has gone from $5,150,967 in FY2009 to $3,510,505 in the FY2016 proposed budget. In fact, the budget proposal for the Oklahoma Arts Council will be smaller than any year since 1997.

These ongoing funding decisions will have a negative ripple effect on many communities, especially rural communities who otherwise might not have access to arts programming. Schools and other sectors, including businesses, also will feel the negative impact.

  • Since $1 in Oklahoma Arts Council’s grant funds seeds $13 in private matching funds and returns $8 in local and state tax revenue, this budget reduction will constrain arts and culture organizations, artists and local communities’ economies, limiting their ability to help our state advance.

On the brighter side, arts advocates can be assuaged that the Oklahoma Arts Council was not singled out for extremely disproportionate cuts. This is a big improvement over the last few legislative sessions where the Oklahoma Arts Council faced elimination, showing the hard work of arts advocates and the strong leadership of our legislative champions.

Regardless of short-term decisions, arts and culture advocates must work for the long term. We must be engaged and work harder to educate our elected officials through visits and communications. We must demonstrate further the positive impact of the arts and culture sector. We must continue to creatively provide rich arts and cultural experiences across the state.

Each individual who understands the importance of arts and culture to the growth and development of our state and quality of life must recommit to developing a broad understanding by our elected officials. We need to you. 

Updates on the bill containing the budget will be tracked on our website here.  Sign up for the Oklahomans for the Arts email list to keep informed and take future action.