A broad-based coalition of Virginians announced plans yesterday for a massive lobbying effort to increase the state's funding for the arts and to break Richmond's virtual monopoly on what limited funds the state surrently spends on cultural programs.
The group, calling itself Vravo Arts, Inc., said it will attempt to lobby each of the state's 140 legislators "at the local level" to boost funding for the Virginia Commission of the Arts and Humanities from $278,645 in the current biennium to nearly $1.2 million in the next biennium.
At present, the state channels most of its arts funding, more than $2 million a year, to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, officials of the new group said. That creates what William L. Tazewell of Norfold called "a definite imbalance" for cultural groups in Northern Virginia and other regions removed from the capital.
But Tazewell, regional coordinator for the new group, said its goal was not to cut funding for the Virginia museum, a powerful political force in itself, but to increase the state's overall cultural spending. The increase the group of advocating would raise the state's spending for the arts from 6 cents for each Virginia resident to 30 cents a person biennially, the coalition said in an announcement.
If approved, some of the additional funds could be given to local symphonies and groups like the Wolf Trap Foundation and Reston Cultural Center, which currently receive "little or no" state funding, according to Carol V. Harford of Arlington, the Northern Virginia coordinator for Bravo Arts.
Tazewell, a former Norfolk newspaper editor, said creation of Bravo Arts marked "the first time" a broad group of Virginians interested in the arts have attempted to "act politically" in an effort to secure more money.
Representatives of the group have had "private discussions" with both Democratic subernatorial candidate Henry E. Howell and the Republican contender, John N. Dalton, about the proposal for increased funding, he said. "Both were sympathetic," Tazewell said.
"Literally hundreds of arts organizations, institutions, individuals and museum chapters in all parts of Virginia share in the limited funds appropriated by the General Assembly to the Virginia Commission of the Arts and Humanities," said Pamela Reynolds of Richmond, head of the new group's steering committee and wife of a state legislator.
Northern Virginians named to Bravo Arts' steering committee include Catherine Shouse, founder of the Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts, and Virginia (Jinks) Holton, wife of the former Republican governor of Virginia.