By Ed Southern, Executive Director, North Carolina Writers’ Network
Yesterday I joined hundreds of other representatives from North Carolinaâ€™s arts organizations for â€œArts Dayâ€ at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh. We spent the day visiting legislators in their offices, making the case for sustained funding of the North Carolina Arts Council and its grants program.
Many of you know that our annual Statewide Services Grant is the Networkâ€™s third-largest single source of revenue, behind only member dues and conference registrations. Thanks in large part to this support, we have not had to raise our pricesâ€”for membership, conference registration*, or the critique serviceâ€”since 2007.
In that same period, though, the dollar amount of that grant has declined by nearly one-third, as state funding for the North Carolina Arts Council has declined by 38 percent. Quite simply, theyâ€™re not giving the Network as much money, because the state doesnâ€™t give them as much money to give.
While I hope our visits (I was joined by literary leadersâ€”and NCWN membersâ€”Carrie Knowles, Robin Miura, and Lynn York) had some effect, I know that even the most sociable visit from me wonâ€™t have nearly as much effect as a simple e-mail or phone call from youâ€”the voters who have the power to send them back, or send them home, when they come up for re-election.
Please take a few minutes today to contact your elected officials in the House and Senate, and let them know how important state funding for the North Carolina Arts Council is to you.
You can find your representatives, and their contact information, here: http://www.ncleg.net/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx.
Be sure to contact them at their legislative phone number or e-mail address, as they are in session now and will craft a budget soon.
Tell them your own story. Tell them how the arts have made your life, your community, better.
Remind them that the $7.1 million the state gives to the Arts Council fuels a nonprofit arts and culture industry that generates $1.24 billion (with a â€˜bâ€™) for North Carolina.
Point out to them that more cuts to arts funding wonâ€™t fix the stateâ€™s budget, but more cuts will most certainly damage the state, its people, and its quality of life.
Let them know, if they donâ€™t already, that North Carolina is â€œThe Writingest State,â€ and we intend to keep it that way for a long, long time to come.
* Before anyone quibbles that we raised the costs for the Squire Summer Writing Residency in 2011, keep in mind that we also raised its duration from three days to four. The workshop-to-fee ratio stayed the same.