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Arts funding in Charlotte hangs in balance as vote looms for a divided council

CHARLOTTE, N.C — When Charlotte City Council last discussed arts funding a month ago, members were sharply divided about a recently created advisory board’s plans for how $12 million in private and public funds would be spent this year.

The biggest sticking point: $2 million allocated to the Arts & Science Council, the nonprofit that controlled fundraising and grants for decades until last year.

Democrat Braxton Winston said during the previous council discussion, “I don’t really have any faith in where we’re at right now.” Republican counterpart Tariq Bokhari, at the same meeting, said the advisory board was repeating mistakes it was created to avoid, adding, “I hope we can fix this.”

Council opted to resume the debate at its next meeting — Aug. 22 — with a vote planned to determine whether the money will be spent as planned by the advisory board. Arts and culture organizations, including museums and performance groups, expected the money to be distributed at the start of the current fiscal year on July 1.

To bridge that gap, the Foundation For The Carolinas, the organization that raised the matching private funds, advanced 25% of the grant amounts approved by the advisory board.

The Aug. 22 meeting will be the last for the current 11-member council, whose members ushered in the shift in arts governance and funding last year. Because of delayed Census results, the scheduled November 2021 municipal elections were pushed to last month; the new council will take office in September.

Four members of the current council are leaving as part of the changeover.

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