Money Transfer Could Benefit Columbia Art Organizations

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COLUMBIA - A small amount of money out of the city's budget could make a big difference to Columbia's cultural vitality, according to the new manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs.

JJ Musgrove said the proposed $25,000 transfer would attract businesses and tourism, adding to the general quality of life.

"I think it's an amazing step in the right direction, especially if you start to think about how much the arts culture within this community contributes," he said.

The proposed 2014 budget would transfer the money from the Convention and Visitors Bureau to the Columbia Arts Foundation, a non-profit organization created last year to help fund artists, schools, and cultural organizations.

The foundation has not been able to give grants to organizations yet because it does not have enough resources.

Members of a local choir said it would benefit from such a grant. The president of the Columbia Chorale's board of directors said the program needs an extra $20,000 this year just to meet its budget.

Anne Johnson said raising the extra money will be difficult because the chorale's state funding is decreasing.

"In the past, the funding has been significantly more and they have decreased our funding, not because we aren't a worthy organization, but because there is less money available and there seems to be more organizations like ours that are asking for financial support," Johnson said.

City Manager Mike Matthes said the Columbia Arts Foundation was created because funding for the arts is difficult for the city.

"We focus on our core services, and the truth is, cultural affairs just doesn't compete well with police officers," he said. "So, the idea that we would be able to increase funding anytime soon is a real long shot, so we made a small fund, and now it has grown to over $20,000." The budget transfer would give the fund around $45,000 total to work with.

Members of the Columbia Chorale said there are many things even a small grant from the foundation could do. Pat Timberlake said it would allow the organization to try experimenting with different music, which would ultimately benefit the community.

"If we did do some original compositions I think it would draw in a lot more of the public, so I think it would not just be a value to the chorale, but also be a value to the community of Columbia," she said.

The money could also go toward costs usually covered by members, Timberlake said. Choir members pay around $100 for sheet music alone, she said.

Johnson said no matter who receives grants from the Columbia Arts Foundation, the money would go to good use and not be wasted.

Musgrove said the foundation does not know yet when it will start to give grants, but its advisory committee will meet about once a month to discuss plans of how it can keep building the fund.