TOPEKA — The clock is ticking toward another crucial deadline for the Kansas Arts Commission, which already lost a year’s worth of federal matching dollars — approximately $1.2 million — because of Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of state funding.
The National Endowment for the Arts has given the Kansas Arts Commission an extended deadline — Oct. 31 — to submit a partnership proposal to be eligible for federal funding in the next fiscal year, according to arts officials.
But the chances of the Arts Commission writing a detailed and comprehensive plan by that deadline is slim, said Mary Kennedy McCabe, executive director of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, a regional arts organization that serves as a conduit of federal arts dollars.
“The Kansas Arts Commission is currently without paid staff and without a budget,” McCabe said. “To rely solely on the time and energy of volunteers, who may never have written a highly rigorous federal grant application, would be certain failure,” she said.
In May, Brownback vetoed the Kansas Arts Commission budget of $689,000, making Kansas the only state to defund the arts. Above the protest of many in the Legislature and arts organizations across the state, Brownback said arts funding wasn’t a core function of state government, private dollars would make up for the loss of state funds, and the governor indicated that Kansas would still be eligible for federal dollars.
But the National Endowment for the Arts declined to recognize the Arts Commission for federal matching funds this fiscal year because the commission did not have a plan, staff, budget or grant-making strategies in place, McCabe said.
If the lack of federal funding continues for a second year, McCabe said, that would worsen the cultural situation for Kansas.
But in appearances last week before a legislative committee, new leaders of the Kansas Arts Commission and the Kansas Arts Foundation, which is a nonprofit fundraiser, said they were optimistic.
“From a programmatic standpoint, the KAC intends to think outside the box to develop new and innovative ways to promote the arts in Kansas” said Kathy Herzog, vice chair of the Kansas Arts Commission. As far as working with the National Endowment for the Arts, Herzog said there was “nothing new to report at this time.”
Linda Browning Weis, who is chair of the Arts Commission and president of the Arts Foundation, said the foundation has accomplished many goals, including getting its nonprofit status approved by the Internal Revenue Service.
The foundation also is nearing completion of a “responsible gift policy” and development of a new website.
“Great accomplishments take time,” she said. “We will do this right, well, and in a spirit of harmony,” she said.