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Betty Jean Grant: Restore Cultural Funding

Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant is upset with County Executive Chris Collins for cutting funding to culturals:

Buffalo is known all over the world as a “cultural city.” From Shakespeare in the Park to the African American Cultural Center to the Irish Classical Theater, there is something for everyone’s taste in the city. We have gone on to win several national awards for our gems here.

It is difficult for me, as a county legislator, to understand the rationale behind the county executive’s move to basically destroy what little cultural pleasures we still have left to enjoy, at a free or reduced rate. I support our cultural institutions 100 percent. All of them, including the Big 10, need the taxpayers’ support. Please write to County Executive Chris Collins and let him know that he must not decrease our quality of life.

  • Kate

    Thank you, Betty, for standing up for the cultural institutions in the area. There is a public hearing at 5 p.m. Nov. 10 on the 4th floor of the County building. Everyone who opposes this should attend.

  • Lancey Howard

    I usually agree with Betty Jean 99% of the time, but there are a couple in “the Big 10” that shouldn’t be supported while others; “from Shakespeare in the Park to the African American Cultural Center to the Irish Classical Theater” that should be.

    Here are the 10 cultural institutions in line for aid


    Zoological Society of Buffalo

    Buffalo Museum of Science

    Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

    Albright-Knox Art Gallery

    Historical Society

    Darwin Martin House

    Burchfield Penney Art Center

    Hamburg Natural History Museum


    Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site


  • James Drenning

    The Darwin Martin House gets $140,000? Hasn’t anyone seen “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long?
    They’ve flushed over $50 million down the Darwin Martin House drain, maybe if they flush another $50 million, The Darwin Martin House will be worth $2 million.
    I wonder who is getting all the money?

  • Peter A Reese

    Only $140K for the Martin House? Scandalous! If that sucker were at Spaulding Lake, it would get ten times the funding.

  • Mr. Bumble

    $825,000 for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra isn’t enough. Snobs will still have to reach into their wallets. Let’s tax the working class a little more so the rich could experience total satisfaction.

    It’s not that the poor don’t appreciate mediocre music by over paid musicians; it’s that the poor hate ironing their tuxedos.

  • Matthew Ricchiazzi

    We need to start talking about consolidating these non-profits, their boards, and their budgets, so that we can deliver services at the lowest cost possible to taxpayers. We can save money with a centralized administration.

    Consolidated Public Library system (centralized admin & mgmt):
    -Buffalo & Erie County Public Library
    -Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society
    -Buffalo Museum of Science
    -Roosevelt Inaugural site
    -Darwin Martin house

    The Buffalo Philharmonic is, frankly, a complete waste of money. Imagine how many local bands we would could afford to hire to play in public spaces for the $825,000 subsidy that goes to BPO. That would do far more to enhance the cultural atmosphere of the city.

    I’m not familiar with how Burchfeild Penny was financed, but it doesn’t seem to make sense for the two facilities to have separate administrative hierarchies (especially since their located across the street from each other).

    Government subsidies for these cultural organizations don’t improve service delivery. The subsidy simply exacerbates administrative costs. We can streamline these subsidies by consolidating administrative “silo” structures and eliminating organizational adjacencies.

  • Justin Arney

    By law Canadians spend 80% of their musically directed tax dollars on local artists.
    For $780,000 you could have an opening act being paid $5,000 and a main act receiving $10,000.
    You could afford that 52 weeks a year.
    The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra isn’t worth it.

  • Kate

    The Burchfield-Penney is the Buffalo State College art gallery. The Albright-Knox is governed by its own board. The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society used to be county-owned and county-run but was spun off and subsidized quite a while ago. They are three completely different entities. I think looking at collaboration (including staff sharing) is a good thing, but there’s no real reason why it’s inherently bad to have more than one art museum, more than one history museum, etc. as long as they offer enough diversity.

    People like to look to staffing cuts first since salaries are always the biggest expense for any business or organization. But you can only lay off so many people and cut salaries so much and demand that people work 60-hour weeks to do more with less before quality starts to suffer in a serious way. Visit a smaller museum and you’ll see that. The exhibit labels will look beat up because, in between answering the phone, writing a press release for a lecture, giving tours for the two school groups that came through, and writing a grant to keep the lights on, there just wasn’t enough time for the sole staffer they have left to print new ones.

    As for the comments about the BPO, I have to say that I’m shocked to see them coming from Artvoice readers, a group I thought was into celebrating a diversity of musical expression. An orchestra with highly trained classical musicians from all over the world playing time-tested works is not the same as hiring some local band to play outside. They bring terrific guest artists in and present wonderfully balanced programs of familiar pieces and newer, lesser-known composers. They are absolutely worthy of a subsidy.

  • I agree, it’s another example of an angry millionaire taking a hit against those less fortunate. This little Nazi has gone too far. His budget is a reflection of his ethics….take out the auditors so there is no check and balance. They know too much about just how bad he is. I thought he said let’s stop this crazy overtime? He has one heck of a budget in corrections…let’s advocate to subcontract that out…it would be much cheaper and TAXPAYERS…READ MY LIPS…..subcontract out to specialists in corrections and all those suicides and problems are over! Since when do county workers know how to run corrections? Let’s get that subcontracted out too and OFF THE BACKS OF ALL OF US SUBURBAN TAXPAYERS!!! REBELL AND CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS…GET THOSE COUNTY WORKERS OUT…THEY ARE DOING NOTHING BUT PADDING THEIR PENSIONS… AGAIN!!!!!!! COME ON TAXPAYERS…AREN’T YOU MAD AS HELL….CALL CHRIS COLLINS AND TAKE THE CRIMINALS OFF OUR TAXES…COLLINS OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to read about that darn holding center any more? Advocate for subcontract! Pay less taxes….we deserve a tax decrease don’t we?

  • Speaking of culturals…did you ever notice when you go, except at the zoo and philharmonic…no one is ever there? Could it be there are no tourists? Maybe we need to stop giving money to the convention center…where are the tourists, Chris?

  • Ten years ago the budget sure looked different. Salaries were small, positions were few, commissioners were paid so much less….just what happened when the republicans took over? All these big salaries! At least when Joel cut 1000 jobs there was a $170,000,000 deficit….there was a reason to put everyone out on the street. Only a Chris Collins and his little subordinates in this terrible economy could envision putting all these people on the street….isn’t that how he made all his money in the private sector? Looks like he’s running government the same way…giving his big guns all the money, and putting little peons on the street. I can’t imagine what this terror would do if he had a deficit! Cruel….cruel…

  • The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is, of course, worthy of our money– and should absolutely be supported. However, having just fought TOOTH AND NAIL for ticket sales to a concert that combined *gasp* LOCAL musicians AND the highly skilled Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, in a merging of styles and music that should have had Buffalo in an absolute ecstatic pitch over such diverse groups working together– I am also sadly and painfully aware of how hard it is for ANYbody to make money in the arts in Erie County. As we are all aware, the arts feed more money into the local economy than the Buffalo Bills do, and it seems that with all of New York State deciding that the arts are not worthwhile, we need to really think about who we are putting into office as our representatives. By the way, anybody who attended our Concert from the Heart can attest to the power of our musical and artistic heritage.
    –US Director, Artfully AWARE

  • One more thing and I will leave this alone– as an arts advocate and representative of a global arts organization, I suggest you get some facts about the impact the arts have on our economy at: Americans for the Arts website.

    It’s a huge website: go to, click on “Research and Information” beneath the picture on the right. Then, under Action-Oriented Research look at Arts & Economic Prosperity. Scroll down, and you will see Make the Case for Arts Support in Your Community, which has lots of information that puts dollar amounts on the impact of the arts on communities like ours.

  • To fund all the culturals tell Collins to subcontract out the inmate stuff and their medical care (will save plenty) and expand cultural funding so that those of us who pay all the taxes can enjoy the beauty of the arts.

  • Iggy Provanzano

    The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is, of course, boring. Western New York is awash in talent; from the Goo Goo Dolls and Weazer rock bands to the classical voices of Steven Balesteri and Ashlee Amoia to the funk of Rick James. Western New York has always produced great talent.
    Why we hand the Philharmonic tax dollars and don’t demand to see local talent in some of their performances should be questioned.
    There is nothing wrong with asking for very little with a lot of money.

  • Peter A Reese

    Matt Ricchiazzi has a brilliant idea. Since the same group of Glitterati infest the board of every cultural, why not just combine them all to save time and money? We should throw in all the PBCs like the NFTA, EC HDC, NYPA, etc. They could meet at the Buffalo Club whenever convenient and do whatever Rudnick et al direct. With a mega-summary agenda and one omnibus resolution, they could control every public dollar spent in WNY in an efficient manner. Meetings would consist of political speeches from our self-appointed leaders followed by rubber stamping of the omnibus resolution. They could get all WNY business done in 30 minutes once a month. This would leave all the great ones with more time to carve us up in secret.

  • Matthew Ricchiazzi

    Mr. Reese – The government has no business propagating social clubs, and maintaining these various non-profits at largely taxpayer expense is unreasonable, unaffordable, and unfair.

    While these organizations are worthy of laudatory applause for the work that they do and the attraction they provide, they should have the confidence to make their way independently of taxpayer subsidy. It will force these organizations to innovate, to become efficient, and to make themselves more valuable to the public.

    When the government takes money away from productive uses so that it can invest in things that don’t have a return, that’s wealth destruction. I think we can all agree that minimizing administrative costs across our cultural venues is a goal, so that we can allocate scarce resources towards programing.

  • Betty Jean Grant

    I am reciving a lot of emails regarding the cuts to all culturals except Collins’ designated Big 10. A more effective strategy would be for the citizens to call County Executive Chris Collins @ (716) 858-8500. Ask to speak to Chief of Staff,Chris Grant or Collins’ Communications Director, Grant Loomis. I thought everybody knew that Mr. Collins does not respect the legislators nor does he interact with the lowly democratic minority, which is what we are, since Tim Kennedy, Barbara Miller-Williams and Christina Bove have flown the Democratic coop, so to speak. Legislator Betty Jean Grant.

  • Kate

    Iggy, how do you know there isn’t local talent onstage at the BPO? Do you know where every single one of those musicians grew up? Also, if someone gets a job with the BPO out of college, moves here and makes their home in the community for 40+ years (as many of them have) how can you say they’re not “local?” And, as Melissa Kate pointed out, they do actually work with local artists a lot. In addition to the recent Concert from the Heart, Michele Ragusa is a frequent guest performer, and a local gentleman who was on American Idol a few seasons back has performed with the BPO on several occasions, too. They help fund scholarships for local students that want to study music at college, and talented high school students sometimes have the opportunity to play with them. They’re good musical citizens.

    Diversity on the cultural landscape is good. I’ve never set foot in the Irish Classical Theater or the African-American Cultural Center. I rarely go to Shakespeare in the Park. I’d never even heard of New Phoenix Theater before all this. But do I want to see them cut? Absolutely not, because they all contribute to our quality of life here. It’s good to have options, even if not all of them are your particular cup of tea.

    I’d encourage everyone who supports these cuts to remember this discussion the next time you’re bemoaning the fact that Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson seem to represent the high end of our culture these days, and that the lowest common denominator is sinking so fast that “Jackass” will become egghead stuff in a few years, and Snooki will be seen as an elitist. It’s because arts funding is always the first place we cut, and because so many people remain silent or view it as an expendable luxury for the elitist few. If we continue to view it that way, that’s what it will become. The rich will get to enjoy live music and theater, and us plebes will have to content ourselves with whatever’s on the idiot box.

  • Albright Knox? Whatever happened to the $$$ money they collected when they sold our antiquities art to the highest bidder two years ago? They are sitting on lots of money and wonder if they should be on the list ? Collins is up for re-election….folks need to start organizing now.

  • Jonathan Wellinton-Fidrych III

    @Matthew Ricchiazzi: I can see that you don’t understand how WE do things in Buffalo-Niagaraville. Here WE have 25 to 50 of the brightest and best qualified people who control EVERYTHING. Private capitalism is extinct. There is NO investment other than the expenditure of public funds. (FI, My personal fortune was tied up in a trust fund by my great-grandfather in the Nineteenth Century.) This SYSTEM provides a classic socialization of risk with the accompanying privatization of profits. I think you can see how well it has worked for US.

  • Lancey Howard

    Jonathan Wellinton-Fidrych III, you are a snob sir. Many times I have seen you protesting in your tuxedo. Your sign says “Profits not People” I am certain that it is gentlemen like yourself who enjoy taxing the working class more than snoring thru one of JoAnn Falletta’s performances.

    One question I know Betty Jean would definitely like to have answered is; “if four months ago Joe Illuzzi anounced that Chris Collins had rescued the county’s finances and would soon be campaigning for governor, what the heck happened since then to put us 40 million in debt today?”