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Arts supporters stage rally to urge city to fund cultural groups

Nearly 100 people rallied in support of city funding for the arts in Allentown on Monday, adding their voices to last week's Common Council resolution that urged Mayor Byron W. Brown to aid numerous small and mid-sized cultural groups eliminated from this year's Erie County budget.

Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto, who sponsored the resolution, reiterated his support for providing $300,000 to the arts groups through the Fund for the Arts, a local consortium that has committed to distributing $430,000 to the theater and arts groups. The Oishei Foundation is the fund's largest contributor.

In addition, the Give for Greatness campaign undertaken by Artvoice and M&T Bank has embarked on a series of events to raise funds for the cultural groups.

"Arts and culture matter. It's an economic engine, but also a quality of life [issue] for city residents and its visitors," LoCurto said during the 20-minute event held inside the Theatre of Youth.

The value of the arts to that quality of life was underscored by Meg Quinn, Theatre of Youth's artistic director.

"School children come by the hundreds during the week, and on weekends children come with their families. Yesterday, 400 people were here. Before the show, local restaurants were crowded, and after the show, there was a line for over an hour at Sweet Tooth [dessert shop] right on the corner," Quinn said.

"This is proof positive that government support of the arts is an investment in both the creative lives of its citizens, and economic development."

A call seeking comment from the Brown administration was not returned.

Randall Kramer, spokesman for Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance, which organized the rally, said the city would be a much different place without its variety of cultural organizations.

"Many of our culturals are anchors for our neighborhoods. Think of the Fruit Belt without the Locust Street art classes. Or Masten Avenue without the African American Cultural Center and its vibrant activities. Where else do 2,000 strangers gather nightly during the summer, but at Shakespeare at Delaware Park?" Kramer said.

Catherine Linder Spencer, a Buffalo Arts Commission member, suggested the city should resume annual financial support of dozens of cultural groups that ended during a fiscal crisis 10 years ago.

"Wouldn't it be great if the city set the example for the county to follow?" Spencer said.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., who was in the audience and supports aid to arts groups for this year only, said he didn't think the city should be expected to take over what had been the county's responsibility.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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