Two organizations in Hillsdale County may have to restructure their budgets if the cuts President Donald Trump proposed to the National Endowment of the Arts in March go into effect.
The Hillsdale Arts Chorale and the Sauk Theater receive funding from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Because the grants financing these organizations are both operational grants, the money is subsidized by the federal funds in the MCACA’s reserve.
This fiscal year, the MCACA has more than $9.7 million at its disposal, according to MCACA Executive Director John Bracey. From that number, $9 million is made up of state funding, and only $770,000 comes from the NEA, which is federally-sourced money. Bracey said a total of about 10 percent of the grants MCACA awards come from the NEA.
“When it comes to this money it’s really about creating experiences for kids and families to learn to express themselves,” Bracey said. “It’s sending tax dollars back to taxpayers so they can make their square mile the best it can be.”
Hillsdale Arts Chorale Executive Director Greg Bailey said the MCACA awarded them a $7,500 grant, the first from the MCACA the organization has received. The funding supplements a total average budget of $25,000, and will stretch across two fiscal years.
“This grant enabled us to use other funds within our budget to expand our marketing efforts,” Bailey said.
Sauk Theater Executive Director Trinity Bird said his community theater organization receives a grant of $12,500. The grant goes toward a total budget of $125,000 and contributes to Bird’s salary.
“For us, luckily, a large amount of our funding does not come directly from the NEA,” Bird said. “For our organization, in times of need, the community has always pulled through for us. I think we’re in a safe enough place to say that we could probably make up the difference, but it may mean switching up the budget.”
Both of these grants are filed as operational grants and are subsidized by the NEA. If Trump’s budget cuts are accepted, it is possible that these figures will be diminished when the changes are applied.
Bailey and Bird said their organizations benefit the community by providing creative outlets.
“We have so many people who come in and say they’ve always wanted to be in a play or work on a play. You can audition for a show at any age, or work backstage, or make costumes,” Bird said. “For our audiences, we are a very affordable place to come see good-quality theater.”
Both Bird and Bailey said they remain hopeful that their organizations will not suffer greatly if Trump’s budget cuts are applied, and they also remain confident that their organizations will survive if they are.
“The Hillsdale Arts Chorale is the type of organization that is volunteer based, and it provides the type of music and performance that wouldn’t be available in the area otherwise, other than Hillsdale College,” Bailey said. “It’s rare for a county of 40,000 people to have a group that has survived for this long and is able to provide quality entertainment and repertoire.”