LONDON – LONDON (AP) — Some of Britain's best-known artists launched a campaign Friday to oppose planned government cuts that could slash arts funding by 25 percent.
More than 100 artists including David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Tracey Emin say they fear deep cuts could hobble the country's creative economy.
Artists including Mark Wallinger and Jeremy Deller rallied outside London's Tate Modern gallery as part of a campaign that includes an online petition and a video by cartoonist David Shrigley extolling the social and economic benefits of the arts.
The flourishing of culture is considered a major achievement of the Labour government that led Britain from 1997 until May of this year. Millions were channeled into cultural institutions from the national lottery and the public purse to fund free museum admissions, the renovation of aging buildings and the construction of new facilities.
The new, Conservative-led coalition says most government departments must cut their budgets by up to 25 percent to help slash the country's recession-swollen deficit.
The government hopes companies and private philanthropists will help fill the funding gap, but the economic crisis has already squeezed both corporate and nonprofit funding.
"Development money for projects has really dried up in the last few years," said Beadie Finzi, director of the Channel 4 Britdoc foundation, which helps find funding for documentary filmmakers.
The result is that "too many filmmakers are living off too many credit cards — and that is unsustainable."
On Friday, Britdoc announced a deal with German sportswear maker Puma AG to fund a series of grants for aspiring documentary-makers.
Puma — which already supports a slew of cultural, social and environmental causes — also announced a euro50,000 ($63,000) documentary prize to be judged by a panel that includes Queen Noor of Jordan. The first winner will be announced next year.
Puma chairman and CEO Jochen Zeitz said social responsibility was "part of the DNA of the company."
"Companies have got us into the mess we are in today, or at least are partly responsible," he said. Now, corporations "have an opportunity to change the world for the better."