Nonprofit Newswire | Britain’s Plan for Private Arts Subsidies Meets Resistance

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August 5, 2010; Source: Bloomberg | The U.K.’s new Prime Minister, David Cameron, may have some big ideas about how to get the private sector to make up for planned government cuts on everything from social services to arts and culture. But it looks like he’s going to have to do a lot more persuading to get the country’s wealthy to sign on to a suggestion that philanthropy to increase their support for the arts.

In an interview with the Bloomberg news service, last week, John Studzinski, senior managing director of Blackstone Group LP, warned the Tory government not too be too hasty with plans to make deep cuts in subsidies to arts groups.  Reacting to a letter from Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to museums and arts institutions asking how they’d fare if the government cut its support between 25 to 30 percent, Studzinksi said, “The government should not expect the private sector to cover fixed costs which it is no longer financing.”  The U.S.-born banker added that creating a philanthropic culture in the U.K. that more closely resembles giving practices in America “has to be an evolution and could not be a revolution as the U.K. government is suggesting.”

Studzinski, who gave $7.9 million in 2007 for a new wing at the Tate for its modern art, says philanthropists in Britain prefer to support special projects or acquisitions, and are less-inclined to cover operating expenses.  Studnizki is not the only one suggesting the government tread slowly.  Rena DeSisto, global arts and culture executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said, “As far as supporting the arts, we’re right up there. To expect us to increase what we’re doing a great deal more is probably unrealistic.” Whether he likes it or not, it appears that people in Britain with deep pockets are urging Cameron to be a bit more conservative in his thinking about how to shift expenses from the public to the private sector.—Bruce Trachtenberg