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Munn Decries NYC Arts Cuts

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The chief spokesperson for New York City's not-for-profit arts community has challenged Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's proposed cuts to the city Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA).

Norma Munn, chair of the New York City Arts Coalition, told the City Council that Giuliani's proposed 65% cut to DCA's programs unit would devastate smaller arts groups, including theatres. She told Back Stage on Monday that her testimony‹made during the City Council's public hearing Friday on the proposed FY2000 budget‹included opposition to DCA cuts, and to program grants requiring matching funds.

She also repeated the arts coalition's call‹voiced two months ago‹for a 10% increase in the DCA budget. The coalition includes the Alliance of Resident Theaters/New York, whose membership consists of some 300 New York nonprofit theatres.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who traditionally proposes cuts to the city arts budget, in this year's preliminary budget has also recommended that both arts programs and institutions receiving city funding should match the grants with private monies: by 25% in fiscal 2000, and by 50% the following year.

While opposing the mayor's proposal, Munn was particularly critical of the 50% matching figure for FY2001. She said that many nonprofit groups already receive private funds. "Private dollars go up and down," she stressed. "Groups not likely to make the match are those in the poorer communities."

Under the DCA's Cultural Challenge Program, funded organizations must leverage private monies, which are then matched by the state. For FY2000, the mayor's budget proposal calls for awarding institutions and programs $5 million "on a competitive basis. This will leverage more private giving and result in better exhibits and programs." Munn objected to the Cultural Challenge receiving monies "by cutting existing funds from any arts group or cultural institution."

Council members discussed with Munn whether the proposed DCA cuts will impact on arts education programming through the city's public school system. Munn said that cuts "certainly would have an impact on the broad effort to restore arts education."

The council also expressed interest in public capital funding for arts facilities not owned by the city. DCA funds traditionally go primarily to city-owned buildings such as the Public Theater or City Center. Such facilities are referred to as the Cultural Institutions Group.

Munn said, while she didn't oppose capital funding for "non-city arts organizations," she recommended that the city "have a policy about how any capital funding is done." She added that any amount of capital funding should be "examined relative to those policies."

The city council, now that it has heard from the public, must present its budget recommendations to the mayor by the end of March. Giuliani must then present a final budget proposal to the council in April.

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