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City Council withholds funding from BOPA over management concerns

Artscape Baltimore
Posted at 3:32 PM, Jun 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-19 14:23:49-04

BALTIMORE — Funding for Baltimore's Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) was again a topic of a City Council budget hearing.

City leaders have grown frustrated with the organization's leadership dating back to last September when they scheduled Artscape 2023 during Rosh Hashanah.

This year's annual event has since been pushed back a week to September 22-24.

In January issues with BOPA were exacerbated when the board decided to cancel the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

This prompted Mayor Brandon Scott to demand the resignation of then Chief Executive Officer, Donna Drew Sawyer.

Although she initially refused, Scott threatened to withhold future funding.

In an attempt to circumvent Sawyer, Scott appointed BOPA's Chief Marketing and Programs Officer at the time, Tonya Miller Hall, as his Senior Advisor for Arts & Cultural Affairs.

Eventually Sawyer did step down, leading Brian D. Lyles to take over as Board Chair and President.

Fast forward to now, City lawmakers have continued expressing concerns about management at BOPA.

"Our trust in them as a zealous advocate for Baltimore’s arts community, responsible steward of allocated funding, and vehicle for delivering critical city funding to that community has been eroded by BOPA’s repeated inefficacy," Scott said in a June 2 joint statement with Council President Nick Mosby, and Ways and Means Committee Chair Eric Costello.

On Wednesday Lyles issued this statement claiming the City Council again decided to withhold funding.

"While we’re dismayed by the decision of the City Council to again withhold budgeted funding, we are also committed to working collaboratively with the Council and Office of the Mayor to address their concerns and fortify the governance of BOPA in a way that leaves no doubt about the proper oversight of the organization and the fulfillment of its mandate for the benefit of all Baltimore residents. A great many local artists and creatives depend on the support that BOPA provides. Moreover, we have a highly accomplished and dedicated staff that routinely goes above and beyond in order to provide essential resources, as well as elevate and amplify the broader impact that local artists make possible. BOPA fulfills its mission each and every day and the Board will work intently to allay any concerns about the stability or proper governance of the organization during this period of transition."