In a major blow to the glass art community in the United Kingdom, the Contemporary Glass Society has lost £50,000 (approximately $85,500 US) in funding from Arts Council England after a decade of steady support. Founded in 1997, CGS’s membership has grown to almost 700 and has become the largest organization of its kind in the country, an accomplishment attributed in part to the financial stability provided by the Art Council’s funding. The future of CGS remains uncertain as it begins looking for other sources of funding to continue its core offerings, particularly member services, the quarterly Glass Network publication, and its Website.
On March 30, 2011, CGS was notified that had not been chosen as one of the Arts Council’s “National Portfolio of Arts Organizations” for 2012, a program that funds hundreds of organizations throughout the UK. According to the Council’s Website, decisions were made on two levels: the ability to contribute to their 10-year vision, “Achieving great art for everyone,” and the overall balance of the portfolio. The decision came despite a significant increase in funds awarded to CGS in 2008.
“They assessed our application against this framework, first regionally, and then nationally. We were strong on all counts regionally, but nationally they did not feel that CGS was a priority,” CGS administrator Pam Reekie said in an email exchange with the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet. “It makes no sense that [they] have cut us completely now.”
With a significant decrease in government funding, the Arts Council moved to reduce grants for portfolio organizations by 14.9 percent, awarding funding to 695 arts organizations throughout the country, a drastic reduction from the current 894. In a March 30 press release, Dame Liz Forgan, chair of the Arts Council, acknowledged the difficult choices the organization had to make, including turning down strong applications from 206 previously funded groups such as CGS.
“This is about a resilient future for the arts in England,” she said. “We have taken the brave path of strategic choices not salami slices which has meant some painful decisions, and it is with great regret that we have had to cease funding some good organizations.”
According to Reekie, the National Glass Centre in Sunderland was the only glass organization to receive funding. This bittersweet distinction comes at a time when, with many college courses in glass disappearing, UK artists are striving to keep the art form alive. “We feel it is a mistake that glass as an art form is so underrepresented as a whole,” said Reekie. “It does seem to us a short-sighted decision on ACE’s part.”
CGS’s predicament is buffered by the funding they do have for the remainder of 2011. The organization will focus on developing its Website, which Reekie described as its “central interface” for communicating and networking with its members and the glass community at large. They plan on looking for many different ways to raise funds, including applying to the Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts, a different funding program for which they are still eligible.
“We are determined to keep going. We will work hard to maintain our core services and make a strong plan for the future,” said Reekie. When asked about the future of Glass Network, she was uncertain of the future, but called it “a great resource and showcase for excellence. We won’t give it up without a fight.”