Gov. Nikki Haley reiterated her opposition to taxpayer funding for the arts after speaking at the opening ceremonies for Artisphere, which receives thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds.
Haley didn’t rule out “a role for government when it comes to the arts,” but said the arts should never be funded by taxpayer dollars.
“We have always supported the arts,” Haley said, speaking at a brief press conference following her public remarks. “What we have said is that there is a role for government when it comes to the arts. We want to make sure we do everything we can to support it, but we don’t ever want the arts to be tax-funded.”
Artisphere received almost $19,000 this year from the South Carolina Arts Commission, which is funded by legislative appropriations.
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Artisphere’s opening ceremonies featured the dedication of a sculpture that was funded with an additional grant of $5,000 from the S.C. Arts Commission, according to the commission’s executive director, Ken May.
Haley has vetoed funding for the S.C. Arts Commission for three years in a row. Those vetoes were overturned by the Legislature.
About a dozen other Greenville arts organizations received tens of thousands of dollars in Arts Commission funding, according to the commission’s website.
The Arts Commission receives $2.9 million in state appropriations, according to May, who also attended Artisphere’s opening ceremonies.
Haley’s Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Vincent Sheheen, drew a sharp contrast with Haley on arts funding.
“Her vetoes would make us the only state in America without an arts commission, which would be embarrassing and an incredibly bad reflection on the state,” said Sheheen, speaking by phone.
“I helped lead the charge with a bipartisan coalition to overturn her vetoes every year. I believe strongly that South Carolina should be proud of its heritage and involvement in the arts. South Carolina needs to promote what it does well and what we should be proud of, like the arts.”
Artisphere, which continues today and Sunday, is expected to bring tens of thousands of Upstate residents to downtown Greenville to enjoy art for sale, food, live music and activities for children.
Intermittent rain, however, had put a damper on attendance Friday.
At the opening ceremonies, a new sculpture, “10 Artispheres,” by noted Upstate artist John Acorn, was dedicated in honor of the 10th anniversary of the outdoor festival.
Artisphere also receives public funds from the city of Greenville, executive director Kerry Murphy said.
Speaking publicly earlier, Haley had praised Artisphere for its role in creating a strong quality of life in Greenville, boosting economic development efforts.
“When I look at all the companies we try to recruit to South Carolina, it is so special when we can show them a place that isn’t just focused on jobs but is focused on quality of life,” Haley said.
“It’s focused on what living is like in a city and how it’s going to be great and Artisphere is a perfect example of that. It’s beauty, it’s community, it’s everything we hope to have in South Carolina.”
Sheheen, who is co-chair of the Senate Arts Caucus, said the arts play a big role especially in creating small-business jobs and keeping young people in the state.
“Young adults enjoy a community with a thriving arts culture,” Sheheen said.
May defended taxpayer funding of the arts after the opening ceremonies.
“If we believe that the arts really benefit the public, and we certainly do, then it seems reasonable to spend some public funding to ensure that all members of the public have access to the arts,” May said.
May said the arts are big business, pumping $9.2 billion annually into the South Carolina economy.
Haley, in her public comments, had high praise for city and county officials and the founders of Artisphere.
“I want to say to the mayor, the City Council and County Council that Greenville gets more beautiful every day,” Haley said.
“This (Artisphere) is a celebration of people who had a vision. It’s a celebration of people who appreciate art. It’s a celebration of artists who are coming to our city to display what they do. And it’s a celebration of a community that really understands that this is what makes a community a home.”
Mayor Knox White, also speaking at the opening ceremonies, complimented Haley for her economic development efforts.
“The governor of South Carolina has made economic development a hallmark of her administration,” White said.
“I think we all recognize the incredible success of the state in the last couple of years. We’ve had $12 billion in the last couple of years in new investment.”