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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Karen L. Paty named director of Georgia Council for the Arts

The Georgia Department of Economic Development announced a series of changes in leadership in the arts and entertainment industries in Georgia yesterday. Most notably, a new director for the Georgia Council for the Arts, the state agency tasked with providing access to the arts for Georgians, specifically through supporting state arts organizations (primarily nonprofits) with grant money.

Lee Thomas, former interim director of the agency’s Film, Music and Digital Entertainment division has been promoted to Director. In addition, Lisa Love, formerly director of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, becomes Director of Music Marketing and Development for the state. Both appointments were effective July 1, 2011.

Also on July 1, the Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) moved under the GDEcD’s [Georgia’s economic development agency] operational umbrella on that date and its interim director, Karen L. Paty was named Director by Gov. Nathan Deal. The GCA’s alignment with Georgia’s economic development agency was legislated by House Bill 264, and recommended by Gov. Deal as an enhancement of the state’s cultural identity and a way to tie together the arts with tourism and entertainment endeavors, both housed in Department of Economic Development.

The agency has suffered its fair share of funding woes the past few years as state revenues have declined in a struggling economy. In 2008, the GCA's annual budget clocked in around $4 million. Today, it totals about $890,000, a number that was reached only after state legislators proposed eliminating GCA funding altogether in the 2011 budget. Previously, the GCA was housed in the state budget office. Moving the GCA under the wing of Georgia’s economic development agency - a shift that was made official at the end of the last legislative session - ultimately makes the agency accountable to the Commissioner for Economic Development. Artists, arts supporters, and some politicians have long made an argument for the arts as an economic engine. National studies support those claims, showing that the nonprofit arts and culture organizations support a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S.

Thomas was pivotal in helping usher in the current statewide film and TV production boom:

She has assisted hundreds of productions and helped facilitate the dramatic rise in film productions generated by the Entertainment Industry Investment Act of 2008. Georgia is now among the top five states in the nation for film and TV production, with an economic impact this year of more than $2.1 billion, up from $244 million in 2007.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated

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