With little over half a year until the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts in Hawaii, it’s unclear where the bulk of the funding will come from to send 100 local artists to represent Guam.
Bill 249-35 would make the Council on Arts and Humanities the lead agency for FestPac and also allow it flexibility to use Percent for the Arts program money to help buy plane tickets for the festival in June 2020.
The cost has been estimated at nearly $400,000, and the trip has been called a junket by Ken Leon Guerrero, the lone dissenting voice at the public hearing on Friday.
Jackie Balbas, acting director of CAHA, testified in support of the bill. She said Guam has participated in every FestPac since its inception in 1972. It allows participants “to share ideas that best protect and preserve the indigenous cultures of the Pacific people, and foster that knowledge for future people.”
However, she reiterated that the bill needs to specifically state that Percent for the Arts will fund FestPac 2020, and a threshold on that amount should also be clearly stated. Alternative funding sources should be considered for future festivals, she said.
“I recognize that in a time of economic disparity and limited resources, precautionary and prudent measures are necessary," Balbas stated.
"However, arts and cultures have value and impact our health and well-being, education, economy and society."
Sen. Telo Taitague asked what other steps, outside of local legislation, have been taken to raise money to pay for the trip.
Ann Marie Arceo, Department of Chamorro Affairs director and chairwoman of this year’s FestPac delegation, presented a budget that estimates a total cost of $310,127, as of Nov. 27. She said the delegation is looking to offset some of the costs through upcoming fundraisers, and as the budget firms up, the number could decrease. It includes:
• $168,000: plane tickets
• $3,675: travel insurance
• Lodging/meals/accommodations: $16,952
• Transportation: $6,500
• Uniforms: $30,000
• VIP reception: $10,000
• Delegation gifts: $1,000
• Host country requirements: $1,000
• Culinary demonstrations: $1,000
• Shipping costs: $15,000
• Technical production (includes videos, photos and livestream): $36,000
• Banners for disciplines: $6,000
• Miscellaneous/Contingency emergency fund: $15,000
Ken Leon Guerrero, who introduced himself at the public hearing as a frustrated artist, taxpayer and citizen of Guam, said the bill “does next to nothing to promote art and art development here on Guam.”
“This bill is a junket. And at a time when government resources are so scarce, we have to prioritize how we use our limited dollars to develop the goals,” Leon Guerrero said.
“If the goal of the program is to develop local art, what develops local art more - sending a delegation of people to Hawaii where … next to nobody on Guam will be able to see the art (and) very few people on Guam will be able to buy the art?” he asked. “Or developing a forum on Guam, a place on Guam where local artists can display their art so it can be seen?”
He noted that in Hawaii, the Kapeolani Park on Sundays was transformed into an artists’ gallery where artists from throughout the island chain would present their works of art and the community would peruse and purchase them.
“Spending $400,000 to develop something like that here on Guam would do more to create and support local art and local artists and to expose local artists and local art to more people on Guam, which will help strengthen the cultural identity that everybody is so concerned with that we have to send 100 people to Hawaii to strengthen local identity,” he said.
He said Guam has smaller functions to benefit a specific group of artists, but nothing for artists at large.
On Guam, he asked, “where does a local artist go to display their work?”
“Having local artists display local work in affordable venues where more local people can come and see the art would do much more to promote, strengthen, and encourage local art than this little trip to FestPac will,” he said.