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Friday, May 11, 2012

$250,000 bump for OCA in Mayor Reed's proposed budget

Camille Russell Love
  • City of Atlanta, Office of Cultural Affairs
  • Camille Russell Love
When the mayor dropped his nearly 600-page, $539.8 million proposed spending plan at the end of last month, he voiced his intention to fund "vital cultural arts programs." Which sounds promising, if vague, especially because the city of Atlanta's Office of Cultural Affairs is lumped under the Parks & Recreation umbrella. The budget document, while colossal, doesn't offer an itemized spending breakdown by office.

I spoke with OCA Director Camille Russell Love yesterday to find out how 2013 was shaping up fiscally, and the news, it turns out, is pretty good. The proposed budget includes a $250,000 bump for OCA that will go directly toward grants and increase the awards pool from $470,000 to $720,000. OCA also received refunding for a current staff position on top of the $250,000.

"I know that the mayor wanted to do more, but the fact that he did anything, to me, is great news," Love says. "We don't anticipate that there would be any opposition [to the increase] from city council. We're working with the hope that it'll be approved and we can move forward to make more money available to arts organizations, community organizations doing arts projects, and individual artists."

$100,000 of that quarter mill will be used as seed money for a new small-grant matching program the office plans to initiate in September. Since last summer, Love and OCA have been developing an online fundraising tool modeled after the Kickstarter-like power2give, a program that's had great success in Charlotte and Miami Love says. Initially, OCA will offer $2,500 matching grants for 40 different projects by Contracts for Arts Services grantees.

"It's a tool that presents low-cost projects that artists and art organizations need funding for, like costumes or a set builder," Love says. "It is a way that we anticipate we can tap into a potential donor base that hasn't been tapped before and those are individuals who can't give $5,000 but maybe could contribute $100 or maybe $20."

If successful, Love plans to make it a quarterly fundraising cycle and expand the participation beyond the Contracts for Arts Services awardees. To make that plan financially viable, OCA will have to line up other sponsors to fund future rounds of grant matching.

Speaking of Contracts for Arts Services, Love reassured me that OCA will be on track for awards in 2012 after a months-long delay of the 2011 cycle. Applications will be due by the end of August with awards being announced in October.

October is also the scheduled launch date for a new gallery in the city-owned former AJC building. OCA announced the architecture competition RE:DESIGN in March. Submissions are due May 15 and will be decided on by a local panel of experts, including Brenda Galina from MODA, commissioner James Shelby, City of Atlanta Planning and Community development, designer/gallery owner Kristofer Laméy, David Hamilton, senior architect at Praxis3, Laura Mackinder, interior designer at tvsesign and Mark Hunt from the CoA office of enterprise asset management.

AJCs former headquarters at 72 Marietta St. downtown
  • CL File
  • AJC's former headquarters at 72 Marietta St. downtown

"This is the real message for the community: We have a mayor who is paying attention to the cultural needs of the city," Love says. "There are a lot of bigger fish to fry, but we're making steps in the right direction. The mayor's very supportive. When the AJC building was acquired, the mayor said he'd be interested in replacing the gallery in City Hall East with a gallery in that building. So he's honoring that commitment, and we think that this is an exciting way to enliven that space."

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