Kansas Arts Foundation raises $105k, but disburses no funds to local organizations in inaugural year

? The Kansas Arts Foundation raised nearly $105,000 in its first year but made no allocations to local arts groups, according to documents submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS documents also show the foundation, which was created to secure private funds to support the arts in the state, spent $15,000 of its $16,800 in expenses on receptions, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Friday.

“It takes a goodly amount of work to organize a foundation,” said Linda Browning Weis, the foundation’s president. “We’ve been visiting with various communities.”

The organization earmarked $20,000 to support the creation of a Kansas license plate to promote the arts, she said.

The Kansas Arts Foundation was formed before Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed legislation last year that allocated $700,000 in state aid to the Kansas Arts Commission, which has been disbanded.

Brownback later proposed creating a Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, and the Legislature allocated $700,000 to the Kansas Department of Commerce to distribute to arts through the new commission. The creative arts commission has not yet held its first meeting.

Brownback’s veto of funding made Kansas the only state without a publicly funded arts agency, leaving it ineligible for $1.2 million in annual federal and regional matching grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Henry Schwaller, a past chairman of the Kansas Arts Commission, said the state aid and the foundation’s efforts to raise funds didn’t come close to covering the shortfall created by that loss of funding. He said the arts foundation would have to raise $100,000 a month to match assistance previously made available by those two granting agencies.

“It shows just how difficult it is to raise private sector money for the arts,” Schwaller said.

State Rep. Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat who opposed elimination of state aid to the arts, said he wasn’t surprised the foundation struggled to raise funds. Funding the Creative Arts Industries Commission might improve chances of renewing grant support from NEA and Mid-America, he said.

“That is really the key,” Davis said. “We have to be able to leverage that money to make this work.”

The state’s 2013 application to the NEA is due at the end of September, but Schwaller said state officials hadn’t conducted the public outreach required to be considered for that federal support.