Hundreds of arts advocates, artists, and politicians rallied against the proposed 31 percent cut to cultural funding in San Diego on Monday, May 8, David Garrick of the San Diego Tribune reports. Demonstrators demanding a reversal of the plan to reduce arts funding by $4.7 million convened outside of City Hall holding signs, which read “Smart cities are art cities” and “Make art not cuts.”
Speakers at the protest argued that cutting money for the arts would adversely impact the city’s educational programming, economy, and character. “If they cut the life out of arts and culture in this city, what’s going to be left is San Antonio with beaches and a nice zoo,” said Barry Edelstein, artistic director for Balboa Park’s Old Globe Theater. “We are standing up for the good people of San Diego to bring them a quality of life that matters.”
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office is defending the $10.4 million budget for the arts, stating that it is actually more than the city spent in fiscal year 2015. Funding for the cultural sector increased from $9.8 million to $12.3 million in fiscal year 2016, and to $15.1 million in fiscal year 2017. However, critics of the cuts claim that the additional funds are part of a five-year plan launched in 2012 to gradually increase arts funding from 5.3 percent to 9.5 percent of the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax.
While Faulconer first proposed the cuts to prevent an $80 million deficit from growing, councilman David Alvarez said taking money away from the arts is not the solution. “We can’t use difficult times as an excuse not to invest in the things that we care about,” Alvarez said. “And if we actually care about the arts, then we need to figure out how to fund the arts.”