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The truth about arts funding in Chatham County

By Heather Johnson
Posted Saturday, August 23, 2014

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Pittsboro, NC - I can appreciate that there is frustration that the Chatham Arts Council is not government funded. It's just that Brian Bock, Pam Stewart and Walter Petty campaigned and have governed on three guiding priorities: Public Safety, Education and Public Health. The Commissioners chose to fund a new women's shelter because our women and children in danger in Chatham County need a safe place to live when they are in crisis. We also needed to fund teachers in Chatham County. Did you know that Chatham County is the only county in the state to locally fund teachers due to shortfalls coming down from the state and federal government? If the commissioners didn't have strict priorities we wouldn't have this funding and our students would lose out. Education would suffer.

Do you know that when the Arts Council funding was addressed by our Chatham County Commissioners? Brian Bock was the first commissioner to personally show his support for our local artists by committing to give a $200 from his own pocket to them. To which all other four commissioners followed suit. So to suggest that they don't support arts in Chatham County just isn't true.

The County Commissioners currently allocate $250,000 to the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation. It is a very diverse board and they have full discretion on the use of those funds. The Chatham Arts Council keeps making the case (and I agree with them!) that arts are an economic driver for our county to include tourism and artists businesses alike. Then why aren't they applying for funding through the EDC?

Why not? If they did, and if the board agreed that it would be a good use of ED funds, then some would be allocated. Instead the arts organizations ave focused on requesting money through the non-profit grant procedure.

The commissioners have struggled to meet the requests by non-profits who focus on education, housing, and feeding those most in need - this approach to governance is totally in line with their stated priorities. They have stated that they cannot justify taking money away from these other non-profits to give to the arts, which by their admission is an economic development activity not a housing, hunger or education issue.

I hope this helps to clarify why keeping Bock, Stewart, and Petty for another four years is good for Chatham County.

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The truth about arts funding in Chatham County
Why isn't the Chatham Arts Council applying for funding through the EDC?

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