Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings Votes Against Fringe Festival Grant Funding
SCRANTON — Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings voted against awarding a $2,400 grant to the Scranton Fringe Festival for fear it might fund uncensored, adult content.
Commissioners on Wednesday awarded more than $257,000 in Arts and Culture grant funding for a litany of projects and programs, including a total of $39,927 in 2018 Community Project Grants for 19 entities and $217,200 in 2018 Arts and Culture Program Stream Grants to 33 organizations.
All but one of those awards — a $2,400 community project grant to the Scranton Fringe Festival’s Early Stages program, which provides interactive performing arts education and entertainment for area youth — were approved unanimously. Cummings, however, asked that the Scranton Fringe Festival grant be addressed via a separate motion, which passed 2-1 with her voting no. Commissioners Jerry Notarianni and Patrick O’Malley voted in favor of the grant.
“They are listing rated R shows,” Cummings said. “They have rated R, rated PG-13 (shows) at the Scranton Cultural Center and we’re paying for that, and I’m not going to be a part of that.”
While the annual festival does feature some mature artistic content, festival co-founder and Executive Director Conor O’Brien said the $2,400 grant Cummings opposed will be used exclusively for content geared toward children.
“What the county funds for Fringe, I can confirm, strictly funds children’s programming,” O’Brien said, noting he did not hear Cummings’ objections firsthand.
Cummings, however, said she cannot be sure that is the case, noting that the project description says the festival believes in “bold, uncensored and exciting work in all mediums.”
Moreover, Cummings warned that if the anchor institutions that annually receive funding from a dedicated 1-mill county arts and education tax — the Everhart Museum, Scranton Cultural Center and Lackawanna County Library System — use county funding to play host to R-rated or uncensored performances, she will vote against that funding in the future.
O’Brien, who thanked O’Malley and Notarianni for voting yes on the $2,400 grant, stressed that county money does not fund artistic performances featuring mature content. Still, he defended artists’ right to present such content and disavowed artistic “censorship.”
“We do not believe in censorship,” he said, encouraging Cummings to attend a Scranton Fringe Festival performance. “Primarily, we are simply here to create a platform for artists ... to express themselves and to take risks.”
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