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Stark County arts groups fear funding cuts would add to struggle

Posted at 6:51 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 20:41:48-05

CANTON, Ohio — For decades, Canton Ballet has instructed dancers on the intricacies of bending, jumping and gliding, but the group has also been forced to become more flexible in the way it operates during the pandemic.

Cassandra Crowley, the executive and artistic director, said the ballet switched to virtual dancing during much of the outbreak, cut back to one pianist, and when in-person resumed, many families opted not to bring their children back.

"We lost 30% of our students in the first year of the the pandemic," Crowley said. "We lost more the next year."

All of those factors tightened the purse strings of the Canton Ballet, and now, Crowley is worried about losing more funding that she counts on through ArtsinStark.

"We're just pinching our pennies everywhere," she said.

In recent years, ArtsinStark has raised about $1.6 million in donations to help support arts organizations. However, last year, amid all of the pandemic challenges, that number dipped to about $1.3 million.

As a result of the $300,000 difference, the non-profit is warning the arts community about the potential for less funding to help dance, theater and other groups.

"Certainly the buckets are smaller for everybody," said David Whitehill, the president and CEO of ArtsinStark. "The arts were really first to shut down and really will be the last to recover."

Whitehill said arts organizations have been warned to prepare for a drop between 10 and 30% in funding, which could make it harder to stage future shows, productions, concert and other activities.

In the case of the Canton Ballet, Crowley was told she could receive about 12% less, which would equate to about $30,000.

While she does have other funding sources, Crowley said the loss would be significant.

"It just make us be really careful. I haven't bought new costumes for three or four years," she said.

Whitehill stressed the numbers given to people in the arts are estimates and he hopes a campaign to raise more money will add to the pot. Fundraising started this week and will continue through May. ArtsinStark expects to announce its funding allocations in July.

"Our job is to do better and the forecasts that we've given to the organizations is for only their planning, but they're just forecasts," Whitehill said.

Canton Symphony Orchestra could lose about 44% of its ArtsinStark funding, according to marketing manager, Nathan Maslyk.

"We are certainly disappointed by this significant cut to our funding. We understand that ArtsinStark is facing monumental funding challenges similar to other arts organizations," said Michelle Charles, the president and CEO of CSO. "Stark County has always been such a strong supporter of the arts and we encourage everyone to rise up and support the current ArtsinStark funding campaign."

Crowley hopes things turn around and believes more support from the community would really jump start the arts again.

"The arts are really struggling and we do need the public's help to come back."