Letter: Act now to save the arts in Virginia

The Appropriations Committee of the House of Delegates this week voted to cut state funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts by 50 percent in 2010-11 and to eliminate the agency completely as of July 1, 2011. The Senate Finance Committee had adopted a proposal not to make further cuts in state funding for the Commission as the state arts budget has already been cut by 30 percent over the last two years.

As many of you know, I have been involved in the arts world for my entire life. Our Kid Pan Alley program has written songs with more than 14,000 children in Virginia over the last decade; some 200,000 people have attended the concerts. Kid Pan Alley started right here in Rappahannock. My work has been to build community and inspire kids to be creators, not consumers. Basically, we are in a creative economy that needs a creative workforce and yet, there is little training and inspiration in creative thinking in the American school system. As artists, we’ve tried to work harder to help meet the cultural education needs of our children where these programs are being slashed in the schools.

According the Virginians for the Arts, “cuts of the magnitude being proposed would cause arts organizations, both large and small, to close their doors throughout Virginia.” Programs like Kid Pan Alley simply can’t exist without wide-ranging support from government, business and individuals. Virginia already had the lowest per capita level funding for state arts agencies of surrounding states. These cuts would return us to the time in the early 1990s when we were 54th out of 55 states and territories in arts funding.

We are blessed in Rappahannock to have world-class artists living and working here that provide us with programs like the Castleton Festival, the Artists Tour and Kid Pan Alley. I’d like to ask all of you who value the cultural fabric of our community to write or call your state delegate (Todd Gilbert, 804-698-1015) and senator (Mark Obenshain, 804-698-7526), who are due to vote on these committee proposals later this week.

Paul Reisler
Kid Pan Alley founder and artistic director
Washington, Va

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