Arts supporters say veto paints grim picture

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley recently vetoed $2.4 million in funding for the state's Arts Commission, effectively shutting it down.

If the veto stands, Grand Strand arts supporters say it will have a major impact on the arts in the Myrtle Beach area.

And, they say, it says something about South Carolina, if art and culture are not considered a priority.

The Long Bay Symphony is in its 25th season on the Grand Strand, with most of its funding coming from individuals and businesses.

But the symphony is also in the second year of a three-year grant from the state Arts Commission, providing about $9,000 of the symphony's nearly $500,000 annual budget.

"Which isn't a large amount, but it's a significant amount," said the symphony's director, Carolyn Pittman. "It's something that will have to be replaced if they're no longer in existance."

Diane DeVaughn Stokes is on the Myrtle Beach Arts Advisory Committee. She says beyond dollars, the state commission provides services most people aren't aware of.

"They also held our hands when we were opening organizations, forming boards, needing bylaws, they were always there to support us."

Governor Haley says taxpayers should decide which arts programs to fund, not lawmakers. She doesn't believe the Arts Commission serves a core function of government.

But Pittman says it's not a huge amount of money coming out of taxpayers' pockets, and arts are an important part of what the state should do for culture and society, including attracting jobs.

"I've had people from companies that have moved into this area say that they have trouble attracting people to come to work, because of the perceived lack of culture, or lack of better education," Pittman explained.

Pittman says studies show that an arts education improves cognitive skills and that art students are also good at math and science.

Eliminating the Arts Commission would save the state about $2.4 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.