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Keep the cultural grants program alive

Nevada Appeal editorial board

Anybody with a love and respect for history can see the value of the grants handed out by the Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs over the past 10 years.

But the $20 million program is expiring, and Nevadans shouldn’t assume that Gov. Kenny Guinn and the 2005 Legislature will authorize a new set of bonds to keep preserving and restoring the state’s legacy.

The Brewery Arts Center, Children’s Museum, Fourth Ward School and Piper’s Opera House are just a few of the treasures that likely would be slipping away without the help of the cultural affairs grants.

Dollar for dollar, there are few grant programs that generate so much in return. That’s because these organizations operate with small staffs, if any, and depend on the work of volunteers to keep operating week after week. Fund-raising efforts often go toward meeting operating expenses, so there’s seldom money for the major restoration projects the buildings require.

Preserving history in the form of the structures themselves, and promoting cultural diversity through the programs offered inside them, are important for Nevada residents and should be enough reason to keep the grant program going.

But a report by the Commission for Cultural Affairs last year also estimated the state’s cultural centers contribute $19 million a year to the state’s tourist economy. They are a prime reason people visit places like Virginia City, Genoa and Carson City.

The commission, in its meetings last week, faced $6.6 million in requests from organizations around the state and had only $1.94 million to distribute. Groups routinely submit a “wish list” with little hope of getting everything funded, but there is clearly a large gap between what needs to get done and the money available to do it.

To let the program lapse entirely would be unthinkable. Nevadans should enthusiastically support the commission’s request not only to reauthorize the program for another decade but to issue bonds that would provide $5 million a year in grants.

Let’s begin to close the gap.