If art is inspired by suffering, then the creative types of the world should be having a field day with our current situation. It’s possible that great works will be produced (or are being produced) in response to this difficult time in our planet’s history.
Ironically, though, the coronavirus crisis may have sidetracked, at least temporarily, a program that could have been of great benefit to artists in Pueblo and elsewhere in Southern Colorado.
Before the Legislature suspended its operations last month, a bill that would have provided grant funding to rural artists throughout Colorado was sailing through the process.
The state House of Representatives already had approved the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Daneya Esgar, to provide grants ranging between $2,500 and $10,000 to art projects that met certain criteria. Under House Bill 1223, artists could apply for grants in that dollar range for projects that were intended to promote or enhance rural culture.
And the definition of “rural” in the legislation is pretty inclusive. Artists living and working outside the seven-county Denver metropolitan area would be eligible to participate in the program.
The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee and sent to the Appropriations Committee. Where it still sits today, like so many other aspects of everyday life, in a state of limbo.
At some point, the Legislature will return to its work. At the very least, lawmakers will have to approve a budget to carry state government through the next fiscal year.
But what will happen to other bills like Esgar’s remains anybody’s guess.
Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat, said she’s hopeful the bill still may be able to complete its journey and be signed into law. However, even if that happens, it’s questionable whether there will be money available to fund the grants.
The legislation calls for a relatively modest sum of $50,000 to be set aside in the next fiscal year. That would have funded only a few projects under the best of circumstances.
Unfortunately, what legislators will be looking at for the next fiscal year is going to be far from the best of circumstances. Even if the economic shutdown were to end tomorrow, which it won’t, then there would be a substantial impact on the state’s finances.
More than likely, legislators are going to have to scramble just to provide the basic services people have come to expect from state government. So projects that are new and innovative, like the rural art grants program, are likely to go on the back burner, at least for the short term.
Let’s hope that it is only a short-term setback. Assuming the Legislature decides to take up bills that aren’t related to the coronavirus when its work resumes, it would be great if Esgar’s bill gets approval from the Senate and is signed by the governor.
Even if a decision had to be made not to provide the funding in the next fiscal year, passing the law would lay the groundwork for the program to begin awarding grants whenever funding does become available.
As we said in a recent editorial, this crisis has reminded us again of the importance art in its many different forms plays in our lives. It would be a shame if a worthy program intended to help encourage creative activity got lost in the shuffle as a result of the coronavirus.