General Assembly approves 1-year funding to keep Craft Center open

In the final flurry of legislative action during the 100th General Assembly in the last week of April, one year's funding for the Joe L. Evins Appalachian Center for Crafts was approved, keeping the facility open through 1998-99.

Had funding not been approved, the Craft Center would have faced the possibility of closing its doors at the end of the fiscal year as a result of several years of budget shortfalls.

"An extraordinary effort was made on behalf of the Craft Center by many of our supporters, and the university owes a debt of gratitude to each and every one of them," says Tennessee Tech President Angelo Volpe. "State Sen. Tommy Burks and Rep. Jere Hargrove understood our need and worked tirelessly on the center's behalf. We are also grateful to Gov. Don Sundquist for including the funding for the center in his budget proposal."

In February, Sen. Burks (agriculture '63) and Rep. Hargrove sponsored a bill asking the legislature to provide nearly $367,000 in additional state funding for the Craft Center on a recurring basis, on top of the current university allocation of some $465,000.

The Burks-Hargrove bill sailed through each legislative committee on its way to the final vote, passing unanimously, thanks to the leadership of both Sen. Burks and Rep. Hargrove. Also, along the way, the request for additional funding was added to the governor's proposed budget for the coming year.

"This has truly been a collaborative effort," says Leo McGee, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and author of the funding proposal that led to the legislative bill. "Sen. Burks and Rep. Hargrove, our supporters in FACCT [the Friends of the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Tennessee] and the governor himself have all shown their belief in the center's unique programs and its value to higher education and Tennessee's cultural tourism industry."

Tennessee Tech, which took over the administration of the Craft Center in 1985, began considering closing the facility two years ago following several years of declining operating budgets. The university's entire bachelor of fine arts degree curriculum was streamlined, resulting in three fine arts options: drawing and painting, art education and three-dimensional art. The revised BFA program remains in place, and now that 1998-99 funding is secure, three-dimensional art studies will continue taking place at the Craft Center, which offers the Southeast's only BFA with an emphasis in glass, clay, wood, metals and fibers.

The only casualty, as a result of legislative action, was the request for recurring allocations from the state. Instead, Tennessee Tech will have to renew its efforts to secure sufficient funding for the Craft Center on a recurring basis.

"With the enthusiastic support of our legislators and the governor, we're on the road to making the Craft Center the kind of success story it deserves to be," says McGee. "Thanks to their efforts, the Craft Center has a chance to live up to its potential."