Thursday, April 14, 2011

Council nixes city arts czar

Columbia City Council has put the kibosh on Mayor Benjamin's plan to hire a Cultural Arts Director for the city. Given current economic conditions, this decision shouldn't be too surprising to anyone. Still, it was a kind of double-whammy for the arts in Columbia yesterday: renowned poet and professor (and Emmy-award-winner) Kwame Dawes announced he is leaving USC next year for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Dawes, the founding director of the now-defunct USC Arts Institute, made it pretty clear that the defunding of the Institute was a major factor in his decision to leave. The decision left Provost Michael Amiridis scrambling a bit to defend the decision to defund the Institute, while trying to acknowledge the loss to the University that Dawes's departure represents. Of course, to be fair, Amiridis is in a thankless position in these times of economic duress to the university. But the question of whether funding came down to "production vs. promotion" of the university's arts offerings is a more complicated question than Amiridis' summation to the Daily Gamecock would have you believe. Speaking of the Daily Gamecock, I think they've got it right on this.

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