When Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed $1.9 million in funding allocated to the South Carolina Arts Commission, along with an additional $500,000 in funding for grants on July 5, she said she was not cutting the arts, but rather the commission.
On Facebook, she reiterated: “We vetoed the Arts Commission, not the arts. This does not defund arts education.”
But many advocates say that without the SCAC, which is responsible for issuing competitive grants and overseeing the state’s art collection, arts programs across the state, including educational ones, will be in peril or ruin.
Christine Fisher, director of Arts in Basic Curriculum Project, an educational arts program dedicated to providing and enriching arts programs in schools from pre-school to the college level, said that her program will not exist without SCAC funding.
“Without the Art Commission, there are no ABC projects, period,” she said.
“ABC doesn’t just rely on the Arts Commission, and we apply for grants, but if we did not have ABC funding from the Arts Commission, there wouldn’t be anybody to write those grants.”
The program, which is a coalition between SCAC, the South Carolina Department of Education, and Winthrop University, is predominantly funded by SCAC.
The ABC Project works with schools to develop and enhance all arts fields. One particularly successful area is arts integration, which blends mathematics and science with the arts to make learning more fun.
Fisher said one example is children singing about the water cycle.
“All of those things, research-wise, have proven that students are able to put it from temporary to permanent memory. It’s getting them involved,” she said.
Fisher said that all ABC Project programs are completely free to the schools that call upon the organization. Having no fees allows the agency to provide arts education for even the most rural, impoverished areas.
“One thing I think people forget is that we’re a high poverty state” said Fisher.
“Those grants are really important. When all of the funding for materials and supplies were cut after 9/11, and when everything went South with the economy, the money has helped sustain programs with supplies in order to teach."
Fisher added that without the grants received through SCAC, many schools would be without paint and paper for artwork, or without music to play.
George Patrick McLeer, executive director of the Mauldin Cultural Center, said that even though SCAC funding is crucial to ABC Project, it is more than just funding.
“Yes, they may be able to get funding from other places, but getting the money from the state is more than money,” he said. “It’s saying the program is worth the state’s investment.”
McLeer said the SCAC gets matched federal dollars from the National Endowment for the Arts, which only gives to those agencies that are state-supported. SCAC money “trickles down” to countless programs throughout the state through its grants.
SCAC granted more than $260,000 in arts education funds this past fiscal year, according to its website.
State lawmakers return to Columbia on Tuesday to consider the vetoes, and whether to override them.