Bangor panel OKs $20,000 for BSO

Posted Jan. 21, 2010, at 8:59 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The city Commission on Cultural Development approved a grant request Thursday by the Bangor Symphony Orchestra for $20,000.

That recommendation — along with a $45,000 grant approved for the American Folk Festival — still needs approval of the City Council, but the commission was impressed by the symphony’s presentation and its commitment to a streamlined budget.

“Any reductions certainly do not show to the public,” said commission chairman Steve Ribble, referring to the quality of the symphony’s productions.

Executive Director David Whitehill said he and the symphony’s board of directors have worked hard to cut administrative costs, reduce the number of annual concerts from six to five, and explore more partnership opportunities. In all, approximately $200,000 has been trimmed from the symphony’s annual expenses.

Whitehill said his organization has suffered economically as has any other nonprofit, but he has not stressed that. “We’re crying to ourselves,” he said.

The $20,000 appropriation to the symphony does not support a specific event, but represents a show of general support to the organization in tough economic times.

The Commission of Cultural Development was founded in 2005 as a citizen-led group that makes recommendations to the City Council about which arts and cultural events to support.

Each year, the city appropriates $100,000 from its general fund to support the cultural commission, although the city scaled that back to $85,000 in 2009. Before this year, approximately 75 percent of the commission’s total budget has been allocated annually to support the American Folk Festival.

So far for the 2009-10 fiscal year, the cultural commission has allocated $17,000 in grants — $15,000 to support the Penobscot Theatre’s production of “Spunk,” and $2,000 to support the New Year’s Eve event known as the Downtown Countdown.

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