Arts supporters and advocacy agencies across the state have turned to social media networks to promote interest and garner support in opposing Gov. Nikki Haley’s S.C. Arts Commission vetoes.
Advocates are using Facebook and Twitter to create “talking points," to call for action in contacting state legislatures — and even to organize protests.
Natalie Brown, owner, director and principal performer of Alternacirque, organized a rally — to be held at the State House at 6 p.m. Monday – by simply creating a Facebook group.
“I was seeing a lot of chatter on Facebook right when it happened,” she said of Haley’s veto announcement. “So a lot of us decided we needed to do some sort of event at the State House.”
“I started a Facebook invite and from there it’s just kind of steamrolled. I’ve done the paperwork and acquired permission to be there.”
Brown’s Facebook group, entitled “Rally for the Arts – Support the SC Arts Commission,” has 1,296 confirmed attendees. Almost 12,000 have been invited. Brown said the rally will be a bipartisan effort by artists and arts supporters to show what they do. She is encouraging artists to dance, bring their guitars, etc.
“Because it’s gone viral, I want to keep it kind of simple,” she said. “I just want artists to do what they do.”
Haley has defended vetoing the commission's funding, on her Facebook page: "This does defund an agency where over 30% of the funding goes to administrative services. We would not donate to a charity with those stats. Taxpayers should decide which arts programs to fund, not legislators. Michael and I love the arts but I don't believe it is a core function of govt during these economic times."
Brown said that this networking has allowed members of the arts community to band together in an unprecedented way, and for that too, she credits the SCAC.
“With the Arts Commission helping us network, we’re in better touch with each other,” she said. “The arts community is getting really strong and this is our chance to show up and say ‘You know what, let’s not go through this again next year.’”
George Patrick McLeer, executive director of the Mauldin Cultural Center, agrees this year’s online and media support exceeds that of the past.
“This year there seems to be a lot more activity around the issue,” he said. “I think that’s one of the reason why it’s much more public this year.”
McLeer said that although the arts are a bipartisan issue, the vetoes feel like a political move from the Governor.
“It just feels very political, so she can say that she’s cut the budget but the legislature puts it back in,” said McLeer. “So it can look like ‘someone else is spending your money.'"
Betty Plumb, executive director of the South Carolina Arts Alliance, said that because this is the third year the SCAC has been vetoed, she was warning people early on.
Despite the budget being passed by the House and Senate, and the Senate adding the additional $500,000 in one-time funding for grants, Plumb said she and many others knew Haley would veto it.
But Plumb remains hopeful.
“A lot of them were just on vacation and they agreed to have a special meeting and leave vacations early, so that’s a good sign,” she said.
Plumb also cited the Legislative Art Caucus, a group of 118 (of a total 170) General Assembly members, as a source of hope for the overrides. That cannot guarantee every vote, every time, she said, but the numbers are in favor of the arts.
Plumb added that the non-profit advocacy agency has also utilized social networks to create “talking points,” or to get people discussing the vetoes. She is also posting daily to remind supporters to contact lawmakers to ask for overrides.
“We give them the information and encourage them to do their civic duties,” she said. “We’ve been hearing a lot of positive responses. We know folks are writing letters.”