Saying he was "sending out a signal that the arts community needs help," Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday announced the formation of a blue-ribbon panel to find new sources of funding for the state's cultural institutions.
The governor portrayed the arts as a "vital industry" in Maryland that employs 12,000 people and attracts thousands of visitors. But he warned that the arts' positive economic impact would be blunted unless new approaches for raising money could be found in an era of declining corporate profits and mounting state deficits.
"We're at a crossroads," he said at a press conference at the Baltimore Museum of Art to introduce the Governor's Commission on the Future of the Arts in Maryland. "If we cut back [on funding], the momentum is lost."
The 55-member commission is headed by George L. Bunting Jr., the former head of Noxell Corp., and includes representatives of most of the state's leading corporations and philanthropies as well as major individual arts donors. It is due to report to the governor in January.
"We expect at the end of three months to submit very specific recommendations as to how we can fund the arts in Maryland for years to come," said commission vice chairman Calman J. (Buddy) Zamoiski Jr., former head of the board of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Zamoiski cited "broadening the base" of corporate support to include smaller companies and increasing funding from the state's outlying subdivisions as two potential ways to add to arts funding.
Arts organizations welcomed the creation of the commission.
"It's absolutely essential," said Robert P. Bergman, director of the Walters Art Gallery. "We've had a tremendous statewide growth in the arts but we're really on the cusp of falling back."
Mr. Schaefer said next year's budget may include "a little bit of a reduction" in the $5.13 million the state currently gives to arts organizations -- itself a decrease of 10 percent over last year -- but added, "I'm hoping that won't happen."
He said he didn't know whether an additional $1 million the state gave to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra this year as the final installment of a special six-year bridge grant would remain in the Maryland State Arts Council budget to be divvied up among all the state's arts groups or would be eliminated by state budget-cutters.