Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback's administration tried to launch a new statewide arts initiative on Thursday, but questions arose immediately about how to proceed, including whether the director works for the arts commissioners or vice versa.
"Today is a new day," said Kansas Department of Commerce Secretary Pat George. "Let's take up the work ahead of us and move forward in a positive way," he added.
But several members of the newly formed Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission asked how much authority the panel had.
Henry Schwaller of Hays asked if the commission was "window dressing."
And Linda Browning Weis of Manhattan asked the commission's director, Peter Jasso, "Do we work for you or do you work for us?"
The questions centered on how much input the commission will have on the strategic plan for arts in Kansas, which will be used to try to draw federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Jasso indicated he would be working with the commission to put together a strategic plan.
In 2011, Brownback stunned the arts community by vetoing funding for the Kansas Arts Commission and making Kansas the only state in the nation without a publicly funded arts agency. The move meant the loss of about $1.2 million in arts money from the NEA and Mid-America Arts Alliance.
But last year, Brownback proposed creating a Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission and placing it under the Kansas Department of Commerce. The Legislature allocated $700,000 to the new group.
Brownback has proposed cutting that funding to $200,000 for the year that starts July 1, and $200,000 for the year after that.