Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback has appointed Connie McLean of Wichita to the Kansas Arts Commission to replace Lawrence resident Grant Glenn, who resigned because of Brownback’s arts funding veto.
Brownback’s veto of the Arts Commission’s $689,000 annual appropriation made Kansas the only state in the nation to ax state funding of the arts. Since the veto, Kansas also was declared ineligible for $1.3 million in matching federal dollars.
Brownback said that state funding of the arts was not a core function of state government.
Despite the veto of funds, the Kansas Arts Commission still exists as a board in state law. Brownback appointed Linda Browning Weis, a Manhattan real estate broker with a background in music and music education, to the commission, and she serves as its chair. She is also president of the Kansas Arts Foundation, a private nonprofit group that was organized to raise private donations for the arts.
When Glenn, an attorney, resigned, he said he had problems concerning the relationship between the Kansas Arts Commission and the private fund-raising organization.
“The public perception is that the KAC has become a puppet for the Kansas Arts Foundation, an organization that has not been transparent with the KAC nor the public about its sources, even though many directors of the foundation are newly appointed commissioners,” Glenn wrote in his resignation letter. The foundation has yet to report how much it has raised.
Some legislators have raised the same concerns. But Weis said the Arts Commission and Arts Foundation are separate and distinct. She said the foundation will provide privately raised funding and the commission will determine what groups get the funding.
Since Brownback’s veto, many local arts organizations statewide have been scrambling for funding and have been cutting back programs. A group called Kansas Citizens for the Arts has called for the Legislature and Brownback to restore funding to the KAC.
McLean, the new Arts Commission member, has served on the board of directors of the Wichita Arts Museum and the State Advisory Council on Aging and the Wichita Board of Realtors Multi-List Committee. Brownback has now appointed eight of the commission’s 12 members.