The show must go on: Professor Kimberly Lynne discusses Spotlight’s fate in light of recent budget cuts
By David A. Chiodaroli
After over a decade of steady operation, Spotlight, the University of Baltimore’s theater program, has had its budget yanked. The troubling news, which was announced earlier this semester, came as a shock to the school’s artistic community, but perhaps no one was more affected by it than Spotlight’s head, Kimberly Lynne. Since 2007, Lynne has overseen Spotlight, turning it from a primarily music-centric program into a multi-disciplinary institution, featuring everything from plays to live readings and, of course, music performances. Throughout her career at the crossroads of artistic life on campus, Lynne has continuously made the case for the importance of art in everyday life.
“I try to encourage my students to have some sort of artistic experience every day, that can help them process this incredibly complicated reality,” Lynne says. “And that’s what I was trying to do as the arts and theater manager of Spotlight UB.”
Over the years, the program, which operates out of the Wright Theater, has featured performances that have covered a variety of issues. On October 12th, in fact, Spotlight is set to feature a performance called Emblems, a live reading of a screenplay about sexual violence, which was written by one of Lynne’s students. However, despite the benefit that Spotlight provides, some members of the school’s budgetary office find it difficult to justify the program’s use of student fees to keep it in operation. Lynne explains that, despite the insistence that Spotlight be financed entirely through ticket sales, such methods contradict her ultimate goal for the organization.
“I always wanted to have the students see shows for free, or pay a minimum of five dollars,” Lynne says. Doing so would allow students, who may not be able to afford traditional theater performances, to see shows that could broaden their creative and artistic horizons.
Unfortunately, such instances of arts funding being slashed, are common in this day and age. As president Trump threatens to pull funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, non-profit arts organizations across the country, who rely on the NEA for funding, are seeing their budgets cut or eliminated entirely. The same goes for many school districts across the country, especially Baltimore city, which has seen its arts programs cut to the point of nonexistence. Thus, Spotlight’s problems are invective of a nation-wide epidemic of budget cutting and overall dismissal of the arts.
Yet, while the road ahead may be rough, Lynne is determined to keep Spotlight alive. In September, she managed to secure a UB Foundation grant to fund Spotlight for the rest of the semester. In addition, Lynne is attempting to find new avenues of funding, while helping to make Spotlight more accessible to the community outside of UB’s student body. In the meantime, future programming is currently in the works, including a performance that uses the classic works of Shakespeare to explain the complexities of the Trump administration. And Lynne is already looking to the spring, when Spotlight will host the week long annual African American Arts Festival. But at the end of the day However, Lynne says, if students want these performances to continue, they need to come and see the shows.
“If you want to have arts programming, attend the arts programming,” Lynne says, adding later, “I want to encourage our student population, and our faculty and staff, to put arts in their lives, because it can help them. It can help them process this reality, this incredibly complicated and terrifying reality.”
For more information on Spotlight, including their list of upcoming events, visit their website here.