Archive for Thursday, January 31, 2013

Editorial: Arts failure

January 31, 2013


Any hope that Kansans had for a renewed effort to preserve a state arts agency have been dashed by drastic reductions in the state arts budget proposed earlier this month by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Two years ago, the governor used his line-item veto to eliminate all funding for the Kansas Arts Commission, which had a long record of successfully supporting arts activities across the state, especially in smaller communities. The state lost the leadership provided by the commission staff and all of the funding supplied by the state, along with about $1.2 million that came from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mid-American Arts Alliance, which no longer would allocate funds to Kansas because it didn’t have a state-supported arts agency.

For the current fiscal year, under pressure from Kansas residents and legislators, Brownback approved a budget that included $700,000 for the new Creative Arts Industries Commission, which was placed under the Kansas Department of Commerce and reportedly would combine the operations of the Kansas Arts Commission and Kansas Film Commission.

Although arts advocates tried to be optimistic about the new commission, they probably aren’t surprised by how that effort has turned out. Peter Jasso, the former head of the Kansas Film Commission was put in charge of the new agency. In October, he reported to members of the Legislative Budget Committee that the new commission had more or less ensured its own failure by not distributing any of the $700,000 to state arts groups. Jasso said he was waiting for a new strategic plan, which he said would be completed this month. He also told legislators that only about $150,000 of the $700,000 would go to administrative costs, and the rest would be used for grants across the state.

If the commission spends $150,000 a year on administrative costs, there won’t be much left over for grants if the state approves Brownback’s current budget recommendation of just $200,000 a year for the entire Creative Arts Industries Commission. When he abolished the Kansas Arts Commission, Brownback also created a new Kansas Arts Foundation that he said would raise private funds to replace the lost state funding. The foundation also has been a tremendous failure. In September, that group said it had raised nearly $105,000 but allocated nothing to local arts groups.

If you go to the Creative Arts Industries Commission website, you will find links for people who want to shoot a movie in Kansas or access a “Kansas film database.” You will find information about how to purchase a vehicle license plate to support the arts and a request for proposals for some public art in Manhattan. You’ll also find information about an artist-in-residence position at Glacier National Park (apparently for artists who are ready to give up on Kansas). That’s it.

Although the governor has maintained token funding in his current budget, it seems unlikely that such a small amount, coupled with the lack of a viable arts organization, will allow the state to restore much, if any, of the federal funding it lost.

When Brownback took office, he said he didn’t think that supporting the arts was an appropriate use of public money. Barring drastic action by Kansas residents or legislators, the governor appears on his way to accomplishing that goal in Kansas.


km 5 years, 1 month ago

Disgraceful. A low point in the history of democracy...

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

I was just listening to a discussion on Kansas City's arts council. They were pointing out that in the metro area, if all the arts related activity was a single business, it would be the second largest employer in the entire city.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 1 month ago

Because that's exactly how it works...

bad_dog 5 years, 1 month ago

If only there were an artist's union Brownie could kill off too...

kansanbygrace 5 years, 1 month ago

WT, many of us have given a huge amount of money and time to various of the arts, but it doesn't improve the availability of opportunity to all areas of the state, whose people also deserve reasonable access to music, theater, dance, entertainment, etc. It differs in no way from government support of electrification or transportation or access to broadcast material or postal service to areas lacking the economic clout to entice for-profit investment in those areas.

fiddleback 5 years, 1 month ago

Switch the spellings and your pun will be seaworthy.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Brownback's mismanaged foundation is not a good way to support the arts.

George_Braziller 5 years, 1 month ago

And why would even the most avid supporter of the arts make a donation to the Kansas Arts Foundation? They haven't distributed any of the money they've already raised and can't even use it for matching funds because they never developed a state-wide strategic plan.

George_Braziller 5 years, 1 month ago

Huh? Art in the Park is sponsored by, and a fundraiser for, the Lawrence Art Guild. Exhibitors have to pay to be there, collect tax on any sales for the Department of Revenue, and then pay the Guild 10% of total sales for the day.

vuduchyld 5 years, 1 month ago

Brownback says we can slash taxes but still generate even MORE revenue. Instead, we get a gaping hole in the budget.

Brownback says we can eliminate funding for the arts, but set it all up so that the private sector replaces state funding AND $1.2mm in federal dollars. Once again, it doesn't work.

People like Nubrick and WristTwister should understand...this isn't just about the outcomes. Your governor is either completely disingenuous or incredibly bad at making policy.

He's looking YOU right in the eye and saying things that we all know aren't true when he says them. Does HE believe those things? If not, he is dishonest. If so, his policy-making judgment is really, truly, historically bad.

DScully 5 years, 1 month ago

And when he's looking you in the eye and lying, he has that sneer on his face. He's a bad man, plain and simple.

vuduchyld 5 years, 1 month ago

Welcome to Brownbackistan, it's where Kansas used to be Welcome to Brownbackistan, it's our new theocracy! Brownback and Koch call all the shots, we're governed by the rich The wealthy all get wealthier and the rest end up with zip!

the video:

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 1 month ago

Brownback's Law-- If it doesn't need fixing, break it.

fiddleback 5 years, 1 month ago

Wow. This is a brilliant new alternative strategy to Starve the Beast; perhaps it should be called Butcher, Constipate, and then Starve the Beast...

So you first destroy a functional system of funding and substitute your own [most likely ineffectual] governing structure; creating this Creative Arts Industries Commission was essentially a butchered stomach transplant. You feed this new stomach money that it doesn't know how to process or distribute. Once the money piles up, you blame the new stomach (rather than your own totally unwarranted butchering), and thereby justify the originally desired decrease in funding. So the Beast still starves, but rather than take any blame, you have a scapegoat in the new stomach, plus a pile of unspent money to point at...

...It thus becomes clearer to me every day that Brownback is not so much an idiot as an evil genius; at least on a subconscious level, he must realize that it's a win-win for him to haplessly re-design programs he doesn't really care about. Then, on the off-chance of a success, he can brag; if utter disaster ensues, he has the back-up blaming strategy and a secret tickle for his reptilian republican id....

Larry Sturm 5 years, 1 month ago

Brownback claims to be christian but in my bible it teaches us to help the poor, the lame, the hungry, an to give to the government what is the government's and to god what is god's Jesus also cared about the tax collector and told the rich man to sell all that he had and give it to the poor in order to get into heaven.

geekin_topekan 5 years, 1 month ago

Mental illness presents itself in many ways. Sometimes those inflicted can be very high functioning. They tend to target the most vulnerable people when their aggressions surface. They are very big on rules. They cannot function without precise rules to guide them. Creativity is dangerous because it has no rules. Jesus is their only mystic outlet because it comes with written instructions to follow.

I pray for Kansas, I do so of my own free will. Not because it is mandatory, yet.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 1 month ago

Good art stands on its own merit. If the artists choose to hang out their shingle that is their decision. Sink, swim or get a real job.

bad_dog 5 years, 1 month ago

"Good art" for the most part doesn't just magically appear. It can require extensive mentoring, teaching and supplies for those that wish to exercise their creative talents in this manner. Will some of it suck or not likely develop the next great painter? Certainly. Are some folks inherently talented enough to pursue a career in the absence of such resources? Sure. Nevertheless, I consider it a worthwhile expenditure, particularly when you consider the nominal expense to taxpayers.

It is interesting that you advise aspiring artists to "Sink, swim or get a real job." To hell with pursuing a career that interests you. Just shut up and grab a shovel. Please define what constitutes a "real job" to you. How about career politicians? Is theirs a real job or only so if you're a Republican?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 1 month ago

The purpose of the now defunct Arts Commission was not to produce "artists," but rather to promote creativity and an appreciation for it. That might lead some people to become artists, which is a good thing. But the arts aren't the only field of endeavor that require creativity. Every human endeavor needs that.

But creativity can also challenge the status quo, and that scares the bejesus out of the wacko far right.

bad_dog 5 years, 1 month ago

I don't disagree. I was just pointing out the need for developmental assistance as well. Teacing art and providing supplies won't necessarily result in a Kansas Michaelangelo, but it will help kids develop & grow their skills

appleaday 5 years, 1 month ago

So, why do we subsidize big oil? I guess you CAN have it both ways.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 1 month ago

I am not for subsidizing anything, oil, farmers, foriegn countries and even artists. You decide your direction in life, hang out your shingle and make it happen. It is not up to the taxpayer or the government to pick winners and losers.

Alyosha 5 years, 1 month ago

This has nothing to do with "good art." It has to do with helping fund a number of programs and /or events clearly shown to increase economic activity in the areas wherein the programs / events exist.

It's usually better for everyone involved — fellow commenters, you yourself too — to make sure you know what's being talked about in a story, or know the facts about a topic, before making a comment so easily shown to be without any civic merit.

bad_dog 5 years, 1 month ago

Yes, pull out that checkbook because funding at that level would cost each Kansan 24.3 cents/year. ($700,000 divided by Kansas' 2011 population estimate)

Way to focus on the big picture Brownie!

BTW, while we're all pulling out our checkbooks, if the legislators want their own little prayer chapel in the state house they can just fund it themselves. No public funding of religion either, right?

MarcoPogo 5 years, 1 month ago

I hear ya, rockchalk. There also shouldn't be any public water fountains or parks! If people want a place to relax and enjoy the day, they should build themselves a pool in their backyards!

geekin_topekan 5 years, 1 month ago

It's not about making money, its about teaching teamwork, leadership, creativity,expression. Let's end high school basketball funding. A good player can stand on his own merit without leaching off of the taxpayer.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

It's also about making money. A solid arts culture can become an economic engine for an area and attract creative startups that aren't even necessarily arts related. That's beyond just the foodie thing that grows out of art scenes or the festivals and other events.

If you think about some of the really artsy cities - New York, San Francisco, Portland, Austin - you see this convergence of the tech and creative world. I know there's a lot of the tech/startup scene in KC meets in a bar in the Crossroads and have office nearby. Probably not a coincidence.

Unlike this silly tax cuts for the rich idea, funding the arts actually does drive economic growth.

jafs 5 years, 1 month ago

The problem with the idea that "good art" will stand on it's own merits is that many artists who are now considered "great" weren't in their day, and lived in very miserable circumstances, while at the same time, many popular artists won't stand the test of time even though they're raking in millions right now.

Van Gogh and Mozart were in the first category, with folks like Lady Gaga in the second one, in my view.

Popularity isn't synonymous with quality.

Liberty275 5 years, 1 month ago

Do you not think the struggle is what makes an artist?

jafs 5 years, 1 month ago

That's an interesting and complex question.

I don't think that artists need to suffer poverty and degrading living conditions in order to be artists, or produce art.

Haydn had a nice cushy job, and managed to produce a lot of great music, for example.

Liberty275 5 years, 1 month ago

Catnip: Egress to Oblivion? recently did well at Sundance. It's from around here.


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