Carmel announces arts grants recipients
By Pete Smith
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard has announced his plan on how to distribute $681,400 in grants to support the city’s various arts organizations.
The vast majority of the money would be used to help support the operations of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, The Civic Theatre, Actors Theatre of Indiana and Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre – all organizations that work to fill seats at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts.
This year marks the tenth time Carmel has issued financial support for local arts groups, which amounts to roughly 1 percent of the city budget each year. Since 2004, more than $6.8 million has been allocated to support these local community programs, according to a city news release.
“These organizations are worthy of public support, which we view as an economic development tool for the city,” Brainard said in a statement. “Studies by the Americans for the Arts show typical visitors to an event spends close to $30 per person, per event, in addition to the cost of admission. Based on tickets sold at the Center for the Performing Arts last season, that additional spending is close to $3.5 million at local merchants and service providers. That’s real money spent at our local restaurants, art galleries and other businesses.”
Most of the grant amounts are inline with previous years’ amounts. And spokeswoman Kristen Merritt said ATI received the same amount this year as the year before.
“This is incredibly generous of the city,” said ATI Executive Director Jim Reilly. “I applaud the city and the council.”
Reilly noted that most arts organizations struggle financially and that the grant will enable ATI to grow.
“We were delighted to hear we were approved for funding,” said Civic Theatre’s Director of Development Catherine Dixon.
The 2014 contribution will underwrite our production costs for the upcoming centennial season, providing some budget relief for our facility purchase payments, Dixon said. Through this support, Civic will generate an estimated $2.1 million dollars in economic activity for the city.
“I think I can speak for all the arts organizations in saying how blessed we all feel to be part of a community that supports the arts and treasures the arts as much as Carmel does,” said Carmel Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Alan Davis.
The symphony said it, too, received the same amount as last year and plans to reinvest in the city with a free performance at CarmelFest.
But other groups saw diminished grants. The Carmel Arts Council did receive less this year, but executive director Doreen Squire Ficara said the nonprofit’s budget should be fine because the council is no longer paying her a salary.
“This will be a help, but we think we have sufficient funds for our arts scholarships, as we have more than doubled them,” she said.
And other groups were not funded at all. The new Carmel Theatre Company received nothing, but it did not apply for a grant said John Clair, the chair of the company’s board.
And neither did the Carmel Clay Historical Society, although it might receive a grant from the Carmel City Center Community Development Corporation, also known as the 4CDC.
The grants were recently the subject of a disagreement between members of the city council. Councilor Luci Snyder has said she would like to see politics taken out of the process of awarding the grants. She would like to see the Center for the Performing Arts manage the grant awards to add to its prestige and to help it become more financially viable. But an initiative to change the process was recently withdrawn.
City Council President Eric Seidensticker said he, too, was frustrated with the process and that he couldn’t understand giving money to the Museum of Miniature Houses but not the historical society.
He also noted that there is no way to empirically quantify the extent that contributing to the arts leads to an increase in economic development. But he also didn’t want to see politicians use it as a means to gain increased political support.
“I think the job of a politician is to show direction, not to dole out subsidies,” he said.
As proposed by the mayor, the arts grants still need to gain approval from the city council and they will be discussed at the next council meeting at 6 p.m. April 21.
The council has the ability to remove or reduce grants, but it cannot add or increase them.