State arts support not a frill

February 16, 2011


It would appear that the “culture wars” have returned, this time under the guise of budget cutting. In Washington, a new, more conservative House of Representatives is threatening to cut off all funding for public radio and television. In Kansas, Gov. Brownback has signed an order abolishing the Kansas Arts Commission. My reaction to all of this is a combination of profound sadness and a feeling that there is more behind these moves than simple economic savings.

The abolition of the Kansas Arts Commission will save the state less than a million dollars—a large sum for individuals, but quite tiny in comparison with the overall state budget. Proponents of the cut argue that “you have to start somewhere.” I agree completely. The question is not whether the state must limit its spending; the question is what state-funded activities should be cut or reduced. It think that it is a tragic mistake to eliminate one of the only sources of funds in Kansas for support of the arts.

Public funding of artistic activity has been a favorite target of social conservatives for decades. At the heart of this opposition to funding the arts is the suspicion that this funding is being used to produce “objectionable” art, i.e., art that offends the moral or religious sensibilities of the opponents. For some reason, distrust of art has become ingrained in the core consciousness of American social conservatives.

I think that these opponents of public funding of art in Kansas should look at the projects and artists that have been funded over the years. It’s hard to see how supporting community art programs or assisting young artists to carry on their careers is objectionable. How many projects funded by the Kansas Arts Commission have offended social conservatives ?

If the motivation behind the abolition of the KAC is not based on this distrust but, rather, is a judgment that art simply isn’t that important, then we are in even more serious trouble. For me, art is the surest sign of God’s presence in mankind that I know. I believe that the human creativity that lies behind art is nothing less than a spark of the divine.

To hinder the arts, to deprive the people of Kansas of an exposure to the arts is, to me, at least, nigh unto sacrilege. Who among the opponents of the KAC will promise that the next Leonardo or Giotto, now a baby somewhere in Kansas, will not be deterred from his destiny because of the lost opportunities brought about by the abolition of public funding for the arts? Is art to once again become the sole preserve of the wealthy? Are the vast majority of Kansans to be told what art they may view by the wealthy few who can afford to support it?

Please, Gov. Brownback, think about how art glorifies not only Man but God, and do the right thing.


Terry Jacobsen 7 years, 1 month ago

Nobody wants their area of the budget to be touched and yet we have a real budget crisis that must be solved. Come on folks get out your pocketbooks and support these young artists. The Lawrence arts center never turns down my donations and they do a great job of promoting all kinds of art and artists.

George Lippencott 7 years, 1 month ago

With all due respect Mr. Hoeflich one could turn your argument on its head. Why should the average "Joe" who really cares little for the arts be taxed to support them. It seems to me that we have represented by your column a group of academic elites who consider the arts a part of their lifestyle but who lack the willingness to sacrifice to support them. The rich will not drive the arts anymore than they ever have. The Feds and the city are spending money to support them. The arts will survive!

Mike Hoeflich 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm sorry that you think that the arts are only for academic elites. When I was growing up in NYC I was hardly a member of the elite. Neither of my parents went to college; my father worked in a tie factory and my mother stayed home. The only arts I could afford were those in public museums and those paid for by the government. It made a great difference in my life. Just because people are teachers doesn't mean that they are somehow "elite." Actually, most of us are simply average folks who believe in education and made it our careers. Part of that belief is that art is important for everyone. If I understand the cost of the KAC to the state it is below $800,000 or about $! per year per taxpayer. Is bringing art into the lives of people who could not otherwise afford it not worth that much? As for not sacrificing for the arts, I currently do donate money to various arts groups and will increase that amount next year when the KAC is gone. Most of the people I know, teachers and not, feel the same. I would hope that "the average Joe" does care about the arts, but I doubt "he" can afford them without government assistance.

George Lippencott 7 years, 1 month ago


I did not intend to write that I thought the arts were only for the academic elites. I intended to say that it is the academic elites here in Lawrence that are most offended by the proposed cuts.

We have two choices. Raise taxes or cut something. I am tired of tax increases for whatever. There will always be something of importance to someone for which we can spend public resources. Is it not better to cut something of interest to a few rather than K-12? We both know the big three. The rest of the budget is composed of items like the arts.

Please feel free to support that which you value with your own resources. Please allow me to support that which I value with my resources. Please stop demanding that I support something you value with my resources.

I might also point out that in our current "take no prisoners" culture, things of value to Lawrence just might draw special attention from those who are not enamored with us. Posting notes such as "Kansas, as bigoted as it gets" may not recommend us to the rest of our state - however valid we may perceive our beliefs.

The budget is not set. Maybe the funding will be restored?!

gbulldog 7 years, 1 month ago

When you accept government financing, you accept censorship. Not only censorship, but the government programs must be "political correctness". I like the arts and they have brought much joy and pleasure. I have been exposed to information and entertainment, but because of government funding, I wonder how much is propsganda. Isn't broadcasting in Cuba funded by the government.

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