SAN ANTONIO – Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced on April 8 that San Antonio arts agencies would suffer about a $1 million loss in funding due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is going to be a 20 percent reduction for the remainder of the fiscal year across the board, on the arts agencies,” Nirenberg said. “That way the burden is shared and it doesn’t hit just certain agencies.”
Arts programs are funded by the city’s hotel occupancy tax, which has been decimated after the cancellation of close to 20 conventions and other events that drive tourism in the city.
San Antonio typically brings in $96 million a year in hotel occupancy tax, but since the pandemic hit, occupancy rates are less than 10 percent.
As a result, a total of 37 arts and music programs have been affected to the tune of $995,000 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which ends September 30.
According to city documents, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center will see the largest monetary hit since it receives the most funding through the program. The center is projected to lose $115,000 of its $574,000 allotment from the city for this fiscal year.
The Witte Museum is the next largest projected loss at $99,199. The San Antonio Museum of Art is projected to lose $69,400.
Music programs that will take a significant hit include the Symphony Society of San Antonio, which is expected to lose $76,623. The Youth Orchestra of San Antonio is set to lose $47,165.
SAY Si, a nonprofit that develops youth arts, is expected to lose $47,921.
Smaller programs, many of which depend more on this funding to remain operational, could close entirely. City officials are looking at other funding options.
“Part of the conversations happening in organized in groups such as the federal state advocacy group is how we can also access emergency relief funds for arts and cultural organizations as well,” Nirenberg said.
According to Krystal Jones, a spokesperson for the San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture, these programs are in the process of receiving their financial distributions for April.
“The funding changes impact the last two payments scheduled for July and September, with the fiscal year ending September 30, 2020,” Jones said in an email to KSAT.
In all, it amounts to nearly $1 million in lost funding for city arts programs.
Nirenberg said the city is determined to get the San Antonio arts and cultural community on its feet and hopes these financial setbacks are only temporary.
“There is a famous adage. During war time people would cut arts funding. Someone said ‘what are you fighting for then?’” Nirenberg said. “Arts and culture are such a vital and critical part of this community. We want to protect them.”
Below is a breakdown of projected losses for each program.
The city noted that Arts San Antonio closed earlier this year, but money was already received by the organization to close out their contract in January before COVID-19.
“We closed out their contract to support the work already performed for the organization by artists and staff,” Jones said.
Staff photographer Bill Caldera contributed to this report.
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