Where KAC grants went in 2011
This fiscal year, the Kansas Arts Commission is supporting 16 different Lawrence artists and art groups through 27 separate grants. Here’s a breakdown of where that $121,957 has gone.
- Americana Music Academy — $3,862
- Baldwin City Community Theater — $2,207
- Baldwin Community Arts Council — $1,696
- Downtown Lawrence Inc. — $2,000
- Francisca Maria Velasco — $5,000
- Friends of the Theatre (KU Endowment) — $2,742
- Lawrence Art Guild Association — $3,421
- Lawrence Arts Center — $16,766
- Lawrence Chamber Orchestra — $1,777
- Lawrence Children’s Choir — $14,286
- Lawrence Community Theatre (Theatre Lawrence) — $13,126
- Lucia Orth — $1,927
- Mari LaCure — $289
- The Lied Center — $16,286
- Spencer Museum of Art — $21,286
- Van Go Mobile Arts — $15,286
Total 2011 Fiscal Budget for Kansas –– $13.9 billion
This fiscal year, artists in Lawrence received $121,957 in grants from the Kansas Arts Commission.
As it stands now, the amount artists in Lawrence can expect next year from the commission stands at exactly zero.
That’s because on Jan. 13, Gov. Sam Brownback announced that as part of an effort to reduce the state budget, he’d be making cuts to the commission, which funds arts and arts organizations around the state through a series of grants. Moreover, the commission would become a privately funded nonprofit “in response to the current demands on the state general fund,” Brownback’s budget states.
His budget would give the commission $200,000 at the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1, to help with the transition before cutting off state money altogether. The move would save $574,642 “and will encourage the organization in maximizing its fee and private sector revenue, as well as increase the organization’s commitment to seeking all available federal and foundation funds,” the budget says.
But, doing so would cost the state a lot more than it saves, says Llewellyn Crain, executive director for the commission. She explains that the state would also lose federal funds if it lost its arts commission. Moreover, as a private entity, the commission would be competing for donations against the organizations it helps just to stay afloat.
“We don’t know what the National Endowment for the Arts would do in terms of providing us with funds. They may choose to not fund us at all because they require that the state make a financial commitment that’s equal to the amount of money they provide,” says Crain, who notes that Kansas would be the first state to cut all funds to its state arts agency. “So our federal funds would either be severely diminished or would disappear entirely.”
And the city of Lawrence would lose out quite a bit, too. This fiscal year, 16 artists and art groups benefited from small grants obtained through the commission. Groups such as Van Go Mobile Arts, the Lied Center, The Lawrence Community Theatre (Theatre Lawrence), the Lawrence Children’s Choir, the Americana Music Academy, the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra and the Lawrence Art Guild Association. Each of the individual grants average out to be about $4,500, though most amount to much less, but it’s money well spent says Mary Doveton, executive director of the Theatre Lawrence.
“While, in the great scheme of things, it isn’t an enormous amount of money, it does enable us to do very significant things within the community, particularly for the kids,” says Doveton, who says much of the money goes directly to the group’s “School’s Out, Theater’s In” program and other youth educational programs.
In fact, children will be most severely affected by the lack of funding, many local sources say, because many of the grants are specifically requested as funds that go to education. In fact, a little more than half of the funds Lawrence received this fiscal year — $61,840 — were specifically earmarked for education.
“We do generally spend the money on scholarships, we try to make sure that anybody who wants to take music lessons at the school is able to do that,” says K.C. Compton, president of the board of directors at Americana Music Academy. “If the cuts happen, that was a big chunk of our income last year. And so it’s very scary to contemplate what might happen ... if that’s cut, that would be really, really dangerous to the continuance of the organization.”
And the education isn’t just for the children, Crain points out. She says that many adult artists come to Lawrence specifically to train, and then bring their art to other parts of the state.
“(Lawrence is) known for its arts and it’s known for its music. And for Kansas to then say, ‘Well, sorry,’ doesn’t recognize the value that a community like Lawrence brings to our state,” Crain says. “For the state not to invest in that, (it) would not only have a negative impact on your community, but also have a negative impact on the state as a whole.”
The negative impact also might affect other businesses in Lawrence from what Doveton calls the “trickle down effect.” For example, if someone buys a ticket to see a Theatre Lawrence production, he or she might go out to dinner beforehand, or get ice cream or drinks afterward, meaning other local businesses will lose out, too. Also, the show in question might have sets built with lumber or decorated with paint bought directly from a locally owned hardware store, meaning more money missing from the local economy. A 2007 study by Americans for the Arts found that statewide, nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences spent more than $153.5 million.
The commission grants aren’t the only source of income for these arts entities, but it’s important, consistent money that makes a difference says Lynne Green, executive director of Van Go Mobile Arts. She says that the $15,286 Van Go received from the commission this year is money that’s expected and needed to support the program, which serves at-risk children. And what’s most infuriating to her is that while she won’t be able to help as many children without the money, the state won’t be saving but pennies in the scheme of a proposed $13.9 billion budget.
“It’s nothing. It’s nothing. You know? That’s what’s so ridiculous. What it becomes, from my perspective then, is it’s just symbolic,” Green says. “A culture, a city, a citizenry without its art is a very pathetic citizenry. People need art for their soul.”