Salt Lake Tribune – Pioneer Theatre has seen a key state grant drop from $85K to $45K as Utah arts groups have multiplied. Now lawmakers may triple that funding.

In a ghost town near Leeds — far away from the decision-makers in the Utah Capitol — Ronald Cundick is trying to keep a bit of Utah history from falling apart.

“You have to use old mortar. You can’t use new mortar. It’s too strong; it breaks up the bricks,” said Cundick, president of the Silver Reef Foundation, which operates the Silver Reef Museum outside Leeds in Washington County.

The museum maintains — or tries to — a collection of buildings left behind from the 1870s, when a rare silver strike in sandstone made Silver Reef a prosperous community bigger than St. George, 15 miles to the southwest. Now the museum, run by a manager and volunteers like Cundick, is based in the old Wells Fargo stagecoach depot, gathering artifacts of life in a boom town.

Cundick’s foundation gets help from Utah taxpayers via the Utah Division of Arts & Museums. Last year, Silver Reef Museum received an operating grant for $6,400.

Vicki Bourns, the division’s director, wishes it could be more. “Even if we had a couple more thousand dollars, we could bring more school kids in,” Bourns said.

That might happen this year, as the Utah Legislature is on the verge of giving Arts & Museums’ grant program its biggest boost in decades.

Silver Reef Museum was one of 248 organizations that received a slice of the $1.6 million in the Arts & Museums grants budget for fiscal year 2018. That money goes to nonprofits and municipal arts agencies of all sizes, from the smallest rural town to the major arts groups in Salt Lake City.

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