Louisville HeARTS Program May Have Its Budget Cut By 80%. Why?

Mayor Craig Greenberg’s newest budget proposal may slash $800,000 in funding to after-school art programs for city youth in Louisville

May 28, 2024 at 12:00 pm
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg (D) is set to slash 80% in his latest city budget for the HeARTS program.
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg (D) is set to slash 80% in his latest city budget for the HeARTS program. LEO Weekly Archive

In his latest budget proposal, Mayor Craig Greenberg (D) will attempt to slash funding for the HeARTS program by as much as 80% next year. HeARTS, a program that was founded two years ago and supported by the Louisville Metro Government, acts as a liaison to support art programs in community centers across Jefferson County.

The goal of the program, according to its site, states that it participates in the provision of “multigenerational, multidisciplinary arts programming in accessible neighborhood spaces during out-of-school time.”

If the budget is approved on June 20, HeARTS — which will lose $800,000 in funding — will then need to make the necessary changes to still operate at 20% of its normal capacity. In an email to LEO Weekly, Director of Marketing and Communications Tory Parker stated that the Fund for the Arts will continue the program even with the drastic change in budget.

“Fund for the Arts intends to continue with the HeARTS program with the funds Louisville Metro Government has allocated in this most recent budget, and we are still in the process of exploring what that will specifically mean with this reduction,” Parker stated in an email to LEO Weekly. “While we are grateful to receive this funding from Louisville Metro Government, we are working alongside the Office of Arts + Creative Industries to advocate for additional resources as well as exploring other funding opportunities to fill in the gaps.”

Sarah Lindgren, who acts as vice president for the Fund for the Arts, stated in an email that Fund for the Arts has already begun the process of finding other funding sources in anticipation of an approved budget for the next year. Lindgren stated she and the Fund for the Arts don’t know now whether the program’s budget could be increased after such a dramatic cut in funding, but that Fund for the Arts will “make every effort to advocate for funding.”

“Fund for the Arts remains committed to the HeARTS program and will continue to do as much as possible with whatever budget is available,” she stated in an email obtained by LEO Weekly.

What is the funding going towards if not HeARTS?

Based on the prior reporting from LEO Weekly, almost half of all the money in the $1.1 billion budget will go towards public safety ($448 million). That money will be used to purchase new equipment for Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD), Louisville Fire Department and emergency operations.

LMPD’s funding will support new license plate readers and MetroWatch cameras to track vehicles around the city, with additional funding going towards recruitment.

“Thrive by 5,” a nonprofit organization separate from Metro Government, will also get a piece of the budget ($5 million). The money is set to be used to give free universal pre-K education to every 3- and 4-year-old in Louisville.

And nearly $50 million of the mayor’s proposed budget is set to improve quality of life in Louisville, including street paving, sidewalk repairs, guardrail replacements and more.

“We understand that the budget put forth by Mayor Greenberg was the result of much deliberation, compromise, and strategy, and was crafted with the intention of serving the entire city with the resources available…,” Lindgren said in an email to LEO Weekly. “This cut in funding is far more detrimental to the 20+ community centers, their constituents, and the artists who have been working to facilitate healing through free, intergenerational arts programing throughout Louisville than it is to the bottom line at Fund for the Arts.”

How many children will be affected by the budget reductions?

Currently dozens of community centers, libraries, parks and schools are part of the Fund for the Arts HeARTS program, which includes hundreds of kids in Louisville Metro.

click to enlarge The impact map of various community centers, schools and more across Louisville in 2018-2019. - Louisville HeARTS Program
Louisville HeARTS Program
The impact map of various community centers, schools and more across Louisville in 2018-2019.

A reduction as significant as the one Mayor Greenberg has proposed in his 2024-25 budget will drastically reduce the reach of the HeARTS program, Lindgren stated in an email. She said that as the vote gets closer, they are doing everything they can to secure enough funding to continue the program at full capacity.

“For programs facilitated through Fund for the Arts, the proposed budget is decreased by 80%,” Lindgren said. “There is no question that an 80% budget cut will significantly impact the program’s reach.”

Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that focuses on advancing the arts in the United States, conducted a comprehensive study on students of the New York City Public Schools performing arts program to see how access to extracurricular arts programs affected them.

In the study, Americans for the Arts found that students, especially those who were socioeconomically disadvantaged, became more committed to their art, becoming a driving focus of their “daily existence.”

“For many, the arts became the focus of daily existence and the central driving force behind their commitment to talent development. The time they spent in arts classes, rehearsals and performance appeared to give them a satisfaction unsurpassed by other pursuits and aspects of their lives,” researchers stated in the study.

Students also faced adversity in the midst of learning their respective art forms, according to the study.

“Some faced situations that could have sent them down a path of underachievement and helplessness where they might have felt they had no control over their lives,” researchers stated. “Yet in spite of these circumstances most were able to overcome some of the potential obstacles through external support and their strong desire to excel.”

One intermediate student who was interviewed for the study said they would have had “no real friends who love music the way I do” if not for the group that was dedicated to the artform as part of the performing arts program at New York City Public Schools.

Based on the study, researchers found that students who participated in arts programs in and out of school found more success in their lives overall.

“Ultimately the skills and discipline students gained , the bonds they formed with peers and adults, and the rewards they received through instruction and performing fueled their talent development journey and helped most achieve success both in and outside of school,” researchers stated in the study.

Lindgren said that public funding into arts programs has fluctuated in Louisville over the years, but HeARTS was a program that brought a positive change to the community’s well-being.

“For the past two years, this funding has been used to support arts programming in community spaces and to build trust and foster relationships between teaching artists, community centers, and participants,” she stated in an email. “It would be a shame for this to be cut short just as it is beginning.”

The vote to approve or revise the mayor’s budget is on Thursday, June 20 through Louisville’s Metro Council. However, there are many public input meetings until the final vote is cast on the 2024-2025 proposed budget.

There are a series of budget hearings scheduled in May and June until the vote. Those who cannot attend public hearings on the proposed budget can voice their opinions on the new budget through a public comment form on the Metro’s website.