The Celebration of the Arts, a committee that in the past brought such widely renowned performers to campus as Bill Cosby, Savion Glover and the “Whose Line is it Anyway” comedians, had a more difficult time booking an act this year due to a new state mandate.
Effective since Oct. 15, the mandate prohibits state departments, agencies and authorities, including the College, from entering contracts in excess of $17,500 with an individual or entity that has made political contributions to candidates or their parties.
The committee – which usually brings two acts to campus per year, one in the fall and one in the spring – was successful in securing a spring act, blues legend B.B. King, for a performance on April 9, but was unable to also secure a performer for an event in the fall due to the state legislation.
As a result, Student Finance Board (SFB) Chairperson Craig Gross estimates that there will be at least $3,000 left over from the money reserved for Celebration of the Arts that can be used for other student funding.
He said SFB will be left with more than $3,000 in unused Student Activities Fee (SAF) funds from the Celebration of the Arts, but the exact amount has yet to be determined.
He decided to reallocate $3,000 to the conference request line, which often helps send organizations and athletic teams to national conferences. When he finds out how much more money is left, he will then decide where best to reallocate that money as well, he said.
This academic year, SFB reserved $50,350 to fund what it assumed would be two shows. The College also allotted money for the Celebration of the Arts. However, since B.B. King was the only performer contracted, not all the money was used.
The $3,000 surplus is not indicative of the cost of B.B. King’s performance, Gross said. He was unable to disclose the total cost of King’s performance due to terms of the contract.
“At no time did the College transfer money to SFB,” Gross said. “Rather, SFB has more money to spend on special appropriations requests simply because we are contributing less to the Celebration of the Arts budget.”
Despite the difficulty it has brought in securing big-name acts for performances at the College, Gross said the legislation was not meant to punish colleges but rather to curb government corruption.
However, the policy directly affects the College and obstructed the Celebration of the Arts’ efforts to plan a performance in the fall.
“We were not comfortable with the timetable we had to work with,” Jared Breunig, senior finance major and an SFB-appointed student on the Celebration of the Arts committee, said. “We more or less found out about this new mandate while trying to plan for a fall show. It made better sense from all angles to do just the spring show this year.” SFB and the College will use money earned from ticket revenue to help cover the cost of the B.B. King concert, not to make a profit off of it, Gross said.
He said he anticipates tickets to sell out, so breaking even should not be a problem.
The committee for the Celebration of the Arts consists of three students, two faculty members and Tim Asher, associate director for Campus Activities, as chair. Breunig said the decision to pursue B.B. King for a spring performance was unanimous.
Justifying their choice, Breunig said, “Equally important to his catalog of work is the inspiration he has give to many of the greatest guitarists of all time. He is a hero to just about everyone who has ever picked up a guitar.”
In-person sales of tickets begin today at the box office in Brower Student Center. “There were kids who were planning to camp out for tickets,” Breunig said, “which kind of lets me know we picked the correct person.”