February 22, 2005

Strapped for cash, FOTA moves forward with festival

The Festival of the Arts (FOTA), an inundation of every form of art on Chicago's campus between seventh and eighth weeks of spring quarter, is suffering financial difficulties. FOTA's projected budget of $42,000 for this year has proven to be a difficult sum to meet.

Originally, the Student Government Financial Committee (SGFC) granted FOTA $21,000, prompting FOTA to request the remaining $21,000 needed to meet its budget from the Arts Planning Council. But the Council only gave FOTA $9,000, compelling FOTA to go back to SGFC and ask it for the remaining $12,000, of which SGFC granted only $3,656.

"This, when combined with the $9,000 the Arts Council funded, amounted to $34,000 out of $42,000 requested for FOTA," said Cameron Downing, the fourth-year chair of SG's College Council (CC). "The Finance Committee felt this was a reasonable allocation and a majority of College Council agreed with their decision, which was made last week Thursday."

The process Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) engage in to receive allocations is cumbersome yet straightforward, Downing said. SGFC makes recommendations for funding allocations based on RSO proposals, which are forwarded, via e-mail, to the Graduate Council (GC) and CC. CC reviews the recommendations every Thursday and votes to either approve a recommendation, allocate a different amount, or reject funding altogether. Once CC has voted on the amount it wishes to allocate, which is usually the same as recommended by SGFC, the proposal is sent to Robert Hubbard, president of SG, who also receives the GC approvals. From there, the allocations are passed to ORCSA for disbursement.

Claire Mazur, a fourth-year in the College and chair of FOTA, said how the group plans to distribute its current funds. "With the money we have now, roughly $23,000 is going to individual students and student groups to build, create, or construct art projects, performances, installations, etc., that will be exhibited during the week of FOTA in May," Mazur said. "$6,000 will go towards programming, which includes the FOTA launch party as well as other lectures, workshops, and events sponsored by FOTA."

One of these events is a winter art gallery, which went up this week in the McCormick Tribune Lounge in the Reynolds Club. The remaining $5,000 of FOTA's funds will go to marketing, advertising, and public relations.

Last year's FOTA, in something of an exception to tradition, was scaled down, which "poorly represented what the festival is meant to be," said Mazur. Last year, FOTA had to work within the financial confines of $10,000 to $15,000, whereas in the two years prior to last it had between $45,000 and $50,000 to use.

Mazur said that because of a huge turnover of graduating FOTA board members, only a few of last year's board were involved in a significant capacity before. Given that those planning this year's FOTA had such little experience, there was a lack of communication among the board members, and the budget was turned in relatively late. SGFC, dealing with its own financial problems at the time, had already allocated all of its money and lacked money to distribute to RSOs, FOTA included.

"In short, SGFC gave us no money last year because they had no money," Mazur said. "The same thing happened with Arts Planning Council and they had very little money left to give us, but most of the money we worked with did come from them."

FOTA is roughly $5,500 in debt this year as a result of last year's financial disorganization. The $25,000 that SGFC has already granted to FOTA is roughly three-sevenths of SGFC's total RSO money for spring quarter. FOTA has appealed yet again to SGFC for the remaining $8,000 needed to cover its projected $42,000 budget.