UC Santa Cruz is no stranger to the California budget crisis. As part of the UC systemwide decrease of $115 million in funding, UCSC itself has felt the weight of an estimated $13 million cut in its budget.
UCSC’s Arts & Lectures program is the latest victim of the shrinking budget.
At the forefront of what is expected to be a string of changes to the university as a whole, Arts & Lectures, a series that promotes art in the community and strives to make it accessible to the UCSC campus, has been forced to eliminate touring guest lecturers and performing artists from its usually full roster.
Assistant vice chancellor Catherine Faris addressed Arts & Lectures supporters in an open letter, citing a “growing operating deficit” as well as redirection of funding to other student priorities in the 2006-2007 school year — funding that would have been crucial to saving the program.
“It is important to recognize that Arts & Lectures has not been cancelled. In 2005, Student Affairs stopped allotting student fees to Arts & Lectures,” Faris explained. “Thus, $50,000 to $60,000 worth of funding was eliminated, not because the program isn’t valued, but because — understandably — they felt there were higher priorities each year.”
According to Faris, because there is no way to reverse the operating deficit, which is currently $300,000, Student Affairs decided not to invest resources in the program. While the program hosted a small pool of donors to support Arts & Lectures, there are not enough donors to keep the program afloat.
“The success of this program really depended on audience support and ticket sales,” Faris said. “Over time we have seen a dramatic decline in income from less tickets sold.”
The 35-year tradition will end its familiar program at the end of the current season, after which it will be revamped to accommodate the smaller budget.
“We will cease funding touring professional artists with A&L funds,” said university relations spokesperson Jim Burns. “Instead, beginning with the 2009-2010 year, Arts & Lectures will focus on distinguished and important campus lectures and cultural activities already established on campus.”
While Arts & Lectures has featured guest performances this season from artists such as Garrison Keillor, David Sedaris and Tiempo Libre, the pull of these artists is not enough to reinstate the current program.
“If the quality of Arts & Lectures is judged solely on the basis of its ability to bring touring professional artists to this area, then the newly designed program will be seen as falling short,” Burns said. “But it is the campus’s intention to integrate other arts events, lectures and programming into an exciting Arts & Lectures schedule.”
While Arts & Lectures may be missing its lecturers next season, the quality of the program is not expected to deteriorate. While focus in the past centered on touring performers, the spotlight will be given to public speakers and student-faculty collaborations.
“We’re excited about the opportunities we have to promote student work now,” Faris said. “Hopefully the community will come together to support these performances and seize the opportunity to keep great performances alive.”
Despite this promise, some students remain disillusioned with the increasing impact of budget cuts on the UCSC community.
“I’m really upset that I won’t have the opportunity to experience listening to touring lecturers while I’m here at UCSC,” said Stevenson first-year Barbara Millian. “Budget cuts seem to be changing everything, and it’s really a shame that arts are suffering because of it.”