Bad news travels fast, especially in terms of budget cuts. For 11 cultural organizations in Savannah, the news that all will face budget cuts next year came as a shock. “It is a significant hit and I also want to say it’s significant on very short notice,” says Lisa Grove, director and CEO of Telfair Museums. “It’s a couple of weeks before the end of the year and the funding was set to start in January.”
Grove says that Telfair Museums, which includes the historic Owens Thomas House. Telfair Academy and the Jepsen Center, tell a story especially to a stranger. “It’s part of an overall ability for us to tell three centuries of art history and architecture so it really is a great combination because visitors can learn a lot about Savannah,” she told us.
Telfair Museums would face a cut of $26,000 from city arts grants. And while Grove says her organization has a large budget, it would still be affected by a cut of $26,000. “Well first of all, that’s a salary for a staff member,” she said. “And we offer a variety of free programs now. Some of those, like free family days every month might have to be eliminated,” she said.
Grove says she worries about smaller organizations that may not be able to absorb cuts and says overall, “cultural institutions in Savannah deliver real economic impact, Telfair’s economic impact specifically is over nine million dollars a year.”
Grove also says art and culture affect the quality of life of all those who live here.
The city says public safety concerns in terms of paying long term for police officers are driving much of the budget decisions. Grover knows there is an argument for public safety but says art is also an important part of of Savannah’s identity. “Both are critically important to the health and vibrancy of our community,” she said. “Both are important to our economic development and I would encourage leaders to really think about the long term impacts that a loss of culture would have to our city’s ability to be competitive in the future and to be a great place for people to live.”