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Artistic Community

After receiving a continuation on funding in December, Arts Carolina looks toward growth in the future.

For a program that is already well-established and almost universally praised, Arts Carolina is operating in a state of continued limbo.

The program has just completed its three-year initiative, and during that time it can lay claim to organizing several festivals, publicizing hundreds of arts events through its Web site and periodical, leading an artistic campus response to Sept. 11, and being the target of a glowing evaluation.

But those credits don't necessarily add up to permanent future funding.

And not knowing the financial state of the program after this semester has made coordinating future events a trying task for Arts Carolina Director Amy Brannock.

"It makes it impossible to plan because we're always a step behind in this budget situation," Brannock said. "It's impossible to plan when we don't know ahead of time how much money we'll have."

Budget uncertainty is a new concern for Arts Carolina. The program originally was funded through its three-year pilot, which provided about $120,000 a year.

That pilot expired with the 2002 calendar year, forcing a scramble for permanent funding.

But thanks in large part to the recommendation of a task force charged with evaluating the program last semester, Arts Carolina won't be scaling back for at least one more semester.

The task force's report, which surveyed members of the campus community, heavily praised Arts Carolina for reinforcing the arts at UNC.

"The Arts Carolina evaluation committee recommends in the strongest possible terms that Arts Carolina not only be continued, but that it receive reliable, permanent and, when possible, increased funding, primarily from central University sources," the report states.

After reviewing the report, several areas of the University agreed to fund Arts Carolina for the spring 2003 semester, said Darryl Gless, a senior associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and the chairman of the task force. They include the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Provost and the departments of Art, English, Music and Dramatic Art.

That combined funding will allow Arts Carolina to operate status quo.

That's enough to allow Arts Carolina to continue publicizing and marketing arts events at UNC through its Web site, online calender and biannual publication. Brannock said the funds also will be able to cover a series of public arts seminars, a UNC presence at the Apple Chill town festival and a possible "performance for humanity" involving several academic departments in the event that the United States goes to war with Iraq.

But after May, there are no such guarantees. Gless said the possibility of future funding rests heavily on the outlook of the state budget in the spring.

The state budget deficit is projected to be about $2 billion, and a similarly sized deficit last year forced all UNC departments to cut their budgets.

"Based on the evaluation, there's no doubt of Arts Carolina's value," Gless said. "A lot depends on the state budget outlook. We're kind of hanging by the fire of that."

Gless said a student fee increase for the College of Arts and Sciences is being explored as a possible source of permanent funding for Arts Carolina, a possibility he said is a viable option because Arts Carolina provides students with free or reduced rate tickets for arts events at UNC. Gless said the college is planning to make a request for such an increase to the Student Fee Audit Committee this spring.

Student Body President Jen Daum, who serves as co-chairwoman of the committee, said getting that request approved relies heavily on the opinion of the committee's four student members.

"Student views are honored," Daum said. "We're a voting committee that doesn't vote but instead operates on consensus."

Even if a student fee increase is approved by the committee, Daum said it then must be approved by the UNC Board of Trustees and will not be implemented until two years later.

In the meantime, Brannock said she has to wait before moving forward on her long-term plans for Arts Carolina. Those plans include coordinating a series of summer arts camps offered by the University, organizing a yearly campus arts festival and beginning to implement the public art planning initiative approved last year.

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Brannock said meeting most of these goals, as well as coordinating another disaster response effort like the Sept. 11 memorial wall and subsequent spiral of life, will require an increase in funding for Arts Carolina. Brannock said the program's day-to-day publicity and marketing work would be hindered severely by any cuts to its previous funding.

"We are on a bare-bones budget," Brannock said. "I don't know what we could cut and still be viable."

And after three years of making the arts a more notable presence on the UNC campus, Brannock said eliminating the program would have a detrimental effect on awareness and attendance of arts events at UNC.

"The arts would become invisible again," Brannock said.

"A small handful of people already connected to the arts would seek out the arts and find them, but it would be much less accessible and much harder for new students and faculty to get plugged in."

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.