In December 2016, the City of Savannah cut from a proposed budget all funding for arts and culture. A few from the arts and culture industry wrote to their representatives and spoke before the City Council to have the cut re-considered. The arts and culture funding was kept intact, but without an increase and with City Council disregarding the Department of Cultural Affairs funding recommendations. Instead of prorating recommendations to the allocated amount, the funding awards from 2016 were replicated. A few organizations saw no change in their amount, many received more than recommended, many saw less than recommended. No new applications were considered.
In the spring of 2017, the City of Savannah left for a strategic planning retreat and returned with a list of priorities entitled Savannah Forward. Absent was any reference to arts and culture either directly or indirectly. What was most disconcerting was the absence of arts and culture among the list of economic development sectors to prioritize.
By late spring/early summer, it was apparent that something had to be done to begin building an alliance to bring the industry together to form a single collective voice like that of many other industries in the region. Originally, it was to serve as an initiative to respond to only public policy decisions, but when the idea was publicized, it was apparent that it could be more.
The initiative is indeed to be in a position to respond to public policy decision-makers, but also to help encourage a more friendly business environment for artists and organizations, foster collaborations, promote the industry as a whole, and to host capacity-building workshops.
Following are a few of the ideas or projects the Arts and Culture Alliance of Chatham County is considering:
- Increase in the City of Savannah’s arts and cultural investment funding,
- Arts and culture operating funds from Chatham County,
- Closer partnerships with county, city, municipalities, and other economic development entities as it relates to arts and culture,
- Industry-wide event showing the best of arts and culture in the county,
- Small business financing or other options being available to not-for-profit arts and culture organizations,
- Comparable small business incentivization for attracting artists and organizations to the county,
- Arts and culture community fund to use promoting the industry and providing other support services,
- Technical support for capacity building,
- Arts and culture-specific short-term loan fund,
- More integration of public art into large-scale capital improvements.