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Who needs art anyway? 

Advocates plea to save Bureau of Cultural Affairs

With the city looking to close a whopping $90 million budget shortfall, the targets are being lined up. And an obvious one -- much to the chagrin of local arts organizations -- is the roughly $500,000 in grants doled out each year by the city's Bureau of Cultural Affairs.

"It's tough to give away money to others to perform services when we can't make our own budget," says Post 3 City Councilman H. Lamar Willis, summing up the opinion of a council faced with the unpleasant task of adopting a balanced budget by Monday.

Nonetheless, as of late last week, advocates for the arts were making 11th hour pleas to leave the money in the budget. After all, the Bureau of Cultural Affairs had already cut its paltry $2.2 million budget by 20 percent, as required by Mayor Shirley Franklin. The bureau also had cut seven employees.

For Contemporary Art Center of Atlanta Director Sam Gappmayer, an end to service grants will mean the loss of as much as $30,000 for his organization. More than that, though, the cut could have a ripple effect on the facility's fund-raising ability.

When the center applies for grants from organizations outside of Atlanta, it cites the money coming from the city, because it enhances the organization's legitimacy.

"They say, 'If the city of Atlanta supports them, it must be a good thing,'" says Gappmayer.

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