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Illinois Arts Advocacy Leader Condemns Governor's Plans

Jul 26, 2015

Ra Joy heads Arts Alliance Illinois, an advocacy group that represents hundreds of cultural groups and artists in the state. He was at the capitol this past week with about 500 hundred other rally-goers, urging Governor Bruce Rauner and lawmakers to keep the Illinois State Museum open.

Governor Rauner wants to close it, saying the estimated $5 million per year in savings is needed because of a state budget that's billions in the red.

Joy said that move is short-sighted and "bone-headed."

He joined me for this interview:

Joy said arts and cultural groups are important when factoring in tourism and economic growth. The state museum, for instance, has been said to bring in more than $15 million annually to the city of Springfield.  

"If we're really going to be serious about making Illinois more competitive and more compassionate, we need to be serious about the arts and our broader creative sector," Joy said.

The news isn't all bad though. 

"We're certainly encouraged by the increasing number of elected officials who are standing up and speaking out, and the overwhelming support from the people of Illinois," Joy said.

Still, Joy said under the 20% cut to the Illinois Arts Council proposed by the governor, Illinois would become one of the lowest 20 states when it comes to per capita spending on art.

He said while arts groups generally get little of their budget from the government (the arts council agency only had about a $10 million budget in FY '15) those dollars go a long way - and encourage more charitable giving from private parties.

As is true for most of the state's agencies - it is unclear how much spending on the arts will shrink, but a decrease is expected.