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Victoria arts group closes because of lack of funding

By Camille Doty
Sept. 7, 2012 at 4:07 a.m.

Joe Baugh, Executive Director of Cultural Council of Victoria

After 34 years of service, the Cultural Council of Victoria will close Sept. 30.

Executive Director Joe Baugh tried to keep the nonprofit organization as a viable community resource, despite losing all city funds for the 2012 fiscal year.

"We didn't get any money, so we can't go on," Baugh said.

Victoria City Council allocated $26,000 to the arts group in 2011. This year, the group did not receive money from the hotel occupancy tax funds.

Some of its signature events included the Juried Art Youth and On My Own Time exhibits, as well as the Holiday Ornament contest.

"If you don't put heads in beds, you don't qualify," said LeOlive Rogge, former executive director for almost 30 years. She said she is heartbroken the cultural council will be gone.

George Matthews, a member of the city's Hotel Occupancy Tax funds board, said in an earlier interview that the council met the criteria, but did not include projects that promoted tourism.

"We had to make some difficult decisions," Matthews said previously.

However, the organization's website includes an online calendar of upcoming events, links to various art groups, with a hyperlink encouraging visitors to plan an overnight stay.

Baugh said the organization has stood by its mission statement: To encourage, support and develop diverse cultural and artistic enrichment for the Victoria Community.

He's not sure why the city decided to have a change of heart to dwindle, and later obliterate funds.

"We've been appropriated funds for 20 years and all of sudden, we're not appropriated," said Baugh.

O.C. Garza, the city's communication director, verified the cultural council did not receive funds. However, he was not on the committee to make the decision.

Garza said the city council appointed a committee to review the applications. He added that this year's applicants from various arts groups requested close to $700,000 and legally, the city's maximum amount to distribute is about $400,000.

Garza said he's not clear how the allocations were decided.

"It's a complex process," he said.

Baugh, who has been executive director for four years, wanted to advocate for funding, but made his mind up not to pursue it.

He said he felt the decision makers had their minds made up before the discussion got to the floor.

John Moraida, an arts group supporter, said Baugh dropped off calendars promoting arts events to mobile homes and businesses as well as making arts available to an under-served community.

The loss of the cultural council will impact the community, especially the other arts groups.

"They're going to miss all the help he gave," Moraida said. "It's a shame that it's going to fade away."

Baugh said he's more concerned about the children who benefited from the program.

Baugh hopes Victoria College and the University of Houston-Victoria will pick up the programs for Hispanic Heritage and African-American History initiatives.

With a smile in his voice, he said, "We've been here since 1978, we've had a good run."

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