Hawaii Public Radio reported last week that the state’s governor had sent layoff notices to 10 employees of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, including Executive Director, Ronald Yamakawa. “That leaves only the Art in Public Places staff, one account clerk, and three federally funded positions to fulfill agency functions.”
The public radio story may be heard here. Given that the foundation’s state funding had already been cut, the lack of an entity to receive and administer federal funding from the NEA, especially ARRA stimulus funds, is causing great consternation in the state arts community. Even when there isn’t a formal federal stimulus plan, federal funds help secure other support.
I have lived in and read about enough state budget crises to know that threats to the state arts councils are often part of a larger political fight. (NJ’s willingness to go broke rather than fund the arts, for example.) I confess I was suspicious when a search of the local daily newspapers didn’t turn up any mention of this story. I wondered if the story was specifically aimed at the public radio audience which tends to have more political influence than many other demographics. The sad truth is that the omission may just be reflective of the state of newspaper priorities and resources.
Whether it is a political ploy or in earnest, the truth will be known on November 13 when all 1,100 layoffs the governor ordered become effective.