Concerned Mississippi artists, arts enthusiasts, and legislators gathered at the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council Sunday afternoon to discuss bills that would dissolve the Mississippi Arts Commission. Supporters of the bills claim that they'll save money and create government efficiency. Wayne Andrews, Director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, disagrees.
"They have no study that backs that up. They don't even know how it'll work if they change the policy."
Andrews warns that the new bills could cost Mississippi almost $800,000 dollars in federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, money that's used for concerts, street festivals, civic choruses, and education programs.
"Right now the Mississippi Arts Commission is the only agency that is authorized to be a state partner with the NEA. So if they go away, if there's no agency to receive that money, that means half the money that the Arts Commission gets, and spends directly in communities, all the communities across our State, goes away."
Republican State Senator Gray Tollison of Oxford believes that artists are a vital part of Mississippi's community.
"We have per capita probably as many artists as any other state. And I know that most all of our people understand that but we also need to appreciate it in state government as well."
Supporters of the bills believe consolidating the agencies is a way to save the State money. But Senator Tollison believes the Arts Commission plays a vital role in the State's economy.
"I think it also promotes tourism in Mississippi. So we need to continue it. It needs to stay put."
Wayne Andrews agrees.
"If there's things people know about Mississippi, it's our art, our writers, our musicians, and our food. All things in the creative economy. So why put any of that at risk?"
Tuesday is the deadline for House and Senate committees to debate bills. For MPB news, I'm Matt Kessler in Oxford.