Budget Cuts for Artists in Illinois

Backroom, 2007
I just received this email from the Illinois Arts Council.

On August 23, 2007, the Governor (Rod Blagojevich) issued a reduction veto that cut funding for all Illinois Arts Council programs by nearly $7,000,000.

The Illinois Arts Council funds individual artists in medium specific grants every 2 years. 7 fellowships of $7000.00 are awarded and 7 runners up get $700. This year I was fortunate enough to receive one in the photography category. Though I am perplexed that in a state that houses a major US city this is the only state-awarded grant for artists. And now just got 7-mil cut from its budget.

A few weeks ago Ryan Granzow interviewed me for a paper he is writing on the state of Arts funding in the United States. Ryan and I had a great discussion about the fact that less grants, fellowships and arts funding ends up putting more emphasis on art as a commercial venture. I can recall Larry Sultan’s telling us in his fantastic lecture last fall that the National Endowment of the Arts made so much of his early work possible. The book Evidence that Larry did with Mike Mandel was made possible by the fact that they were funded by the NEA (back when they were still funding individual artists).

Larry is one of a long line of artists whose work was made possible by federal state and local grants. Today as budgets dwindle, the emphasis for young artists is selling work to survive. Illinois offers the biannual IAC grants; the biannual Artadia grant; and the City of Chicago CAAP grant. Apparently Minnesota is the state to live if you are an artist, with the McKnight, the Bush Foundation Grant and the Jerome Foundation (in addition to State Art Board fellowships).

Should I be surprised that a country with so much wealth continues to value the arts so little? (except for Minnesota)


  1. J
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Yuck, that is bad news. However, I do like that whiteboard.

  2. Posted August 29, 2007 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Sad to hear that. What reason was given alongside the cut?


  3. Posted August 29, 2007 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Do they ever give a reason? I’m sure they think the money is better spent on private planes to and from Chicago to Springlfield, IL for the Govenor or ‘security’.

    Here’s the update today, looks like it will hit artist grants pretty hard:
    All programs of the Illinois Arts Council have been reduced by almost 30% from last year’s level. As a result of this large reduction, the IAC will have significantly less money available to award.

  4. Posted August 29, 2007 at 3:52 pm | Permalink


  5. Posted August 31, 2007 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    It reminds me of a post I made last year about the sad state of arts funding in the cash-rich Silicon Valley:


    Basically, local politicians only see the arts as a workforce-enhancement strategy.

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