The City of Savannah’s City Council meeting discussed July 14, 2022, issuance of additional funds related to St. Patrick’s Day, a non-issue, but a debate led to several takeaways.
First, a suggestion of racial inequity from Councilwoman Gibson-Carter suggested that funding the Pride Festival was favored over the Juneteenth Festival. The Councilwoman must acknowledge that the Pride Festival (and Black Heritage Festival) applied for Cultural Contribution funds, which is the same process for all organizations; however, the Juneteenth Festival did not apply and likely received special consideration. But regardless, more festivals are encouraged.
Second, suppose more free festivals are funded through established means. In that case, the City needs to increase its Cultural Contributions. Contributions are at a 10-year low or down 14% from 2012. However, free programming does not pay an organization’s year-round costs. To that end, start strengthening arts and culture by reinstating funding for fee-based programming using tourism tax revenue, thus expanding support for year-round activities contributing to an intended economic impact.
Finally, for the free festivals, instate a remission of additional funds to all events in Forsyth or events requiring a police presence. Our organizations are now burdened with massive cost increases because of the City’s operations related to a loss of bandshell staging space, a new prohibition of staking tents, and a doubling of police requirements. Additionally, all these unplanned costs to hold a free event for the community require new and additional fundraising efforts because the show must go on.
Patrick A. Kelsey
Arts and Culture Alliance of Chatham County
This open letter was originally written for publication in the Savannah Morning News. Submitted to the Savannah Morning News on July 16 and July 25, 2022, it was not accepted for publication.