Murals stay: No budget too tight for arts money

Artist Jonathan Laidacker worked yesterday in his studio on a mural called “How Philly Moves” that’s destined for Philadelphia International Airport.

Most budget talks focus on streamlining, slashing or trimming. Though all city departments have been asked find 1.5 to 3 percent cuts this year, the third day of City Council’s budget hearings featured a half hour of compliments for the Mural Arts Program, which wasn’t asked to do any cutting.

When executive director Jane Golden finished with her operating-budget request yesterday, Councilman James Kenney said the program “maximizes, more than any other [agency] in the city, the use of taxpayer dollars.” Then he lauded the “what you get from us versus what you generate” numbers.

Golden focused on benefits to the city in jobs created, underserved youths educated, public safety and sustainable communities. The city contributes nearly $1 million, which helps them attract private and grant dollars for an annual $7.6 million operating budget.

“From what I see from cities calling me, it’s a rarity,” Golden said of the city support. “When I hear that kind of feedback, it’s a wonderful morale booster for me. It makes us want to work harder.”

It’s a rarity because arts programs have traditionally topped the fiscal chopping block.

Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance spokesman Karim Olaechea said yesterday that both city and state budget proposals “continue funding for the arts even during these difficult economic times.” Since the budgets aren’t finalized yet, they’ll continue highlighting arts as “a great return on a modest investment.”


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