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Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Arts decline

There’s no good news in next year’s state budget for advocates of the arts in Kansas.

June 18, 2013

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Struggling arts agencies across the state will find little hope for relief in the budget signed Saturday by Gov. Sam Brownback.

That budget cuts annual funding for the new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission to just $200,000 for the next two years. That is less than a third of the commission’s previous $700,000 annual budget.

The cut is a continuation of the governor’s drive to abolish the successful Kansas Arts Commission and eliminate state funding for the arts in Kansas. First, the governor tried to simply abolish the Arts Commission. Then he used his veto to eliminate funding for the group. Last year, he merged the agency with the Kansas Film Commission, establishing the new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission and putting the new group under the Kansas Department of Commerce’s umbrella. He initially recommended $200,000 for the agency but a more-moderate Legislature was able to gain support for a $700,000 budget.

Despite the spending bump, the new KCAIC has accomplished almost nothing this year. In October 2012, the head of the commission told legislators that the agency had distributed none of the $700,000 to state arts groups. In January, he told legislators that he was waiting to distribute funds until after the completion of a new strategic plan. He said he expected that plan to be complete later that month, but the KCAIC was still holding meetings across the state in April to collect input for the plan.

The plan now has been completed but leaves many questions unanswered, according to arts supporters, including Henry Schwaller, a member of the KCAIC board, as well as chairman of the Kansas Citizens for the Arts, a new volunteer advocacy group. On the Citizens for the Arts website and in a recent letter to the Hays Daily News, Schwaller raised key questions about the strategic plan. How, for example can the new KCAIC hope to implement its ambitious plan with an annual budget of $200,000? Does the group have a strategy to increase staff and funding to implement the plan? What are the plan’s priorities and how will success of the plan be measured?

These questions also are likely to be asked by the National Endowment for the Arts, which received the plan last month as part of an effort to requalify Kansas to receive federal matching grants for the arts. Those grants go only to states with state-funded arts agencies, which the NEA decided two years ago, did not include Kansas. Before that, Kansas received about $1.2 million a year in federal funds to support arts activities.

Restoration of all or part of those funds would be good news for the state, but the current inept state of the KCAIC leaves some doubt about how much even some additional funding will help the arts in Kansas.

It’s a bad situation that, unfortunately, shows few prospects for improvement under the state’s current leadership.

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 6 months ago

Nor should there be. The "arts" are a part of our society. That is fine with me.

But the public support of the "arts" has always given me fits. Why should the public purse that has vital responsibilities for the public good such as infrastructure, schols, public works, tax money that is very tight these days, be required to support something that frankly does not contribute one whit to the public welfare and need?

George_Braziller 1 year, 6 months ago

When the Kansas Arts Commission was fully funded it amounted to about 23 cents per person per year. The money was also used for matching funds when applying for grants so it resulted in several million dollars a year available to support educational and cultural programs and activities across the state, especially in rural areas.

De-funding the Arts Commission cost the State more than it saved because of the lost revenue from sales tax on ticket sales, art sales, concessions, lodging for people who traveled to attend an event, the meals they ate, the gas they bought, and all of the other purchases they made not directly tied to the actual event.

Access to art and culture does contribute to the public welfare and need. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans used public funds to support the arts.

globehead 1 year, 6 months ago

Possibly, because "art" is and expression of free speech and has been defined as such in the past by the Supreme Court. The level of financial support for art in most cases has been quite minimal. The issue of public support for art becomes more complicated when we try to decide whose art is supported. The government cannot be expected to provide financial support for all free speech but can provide a protection for as much as is reasonable and should. If the government supports only favored art, then it becomes mere propaganda just as if it only supported certain desirable speech.

It seems to me that the removal of support for art has been the consequence of a few being offended by a minority of art thus they got rid of support for all. The same folks would do the same for speech and religion if they had their way.

Frankly, I'm more offended that wealthy patrons can contribute THEIR personal interpretation of what they consider fine art to private tax free entities and receive excessive tax breaks than I am by the government supporting a broader range of art in a more minimal but democratic way. I agree there are many items supported by the public purse which could be eliminated for use in better ways. Crop supports for politician farmers in this state is a travesty as are many other things. If the complaint for funding of arts is valid, then OK. I can accept your point. But, it's way down the list of areas where public funding has been and is being abused.

Liberty275 1 year, 6 months ago

Art of a period, as a whole, is a record of the mood of society that really can't be duplicated. Whether the nihilism in post modernism or the celebration of our reawakening in Baroque art, the art itself expresses what society feels at that moment. It think the government needs to purchase important pieces as a record of public sentiment.

I have lots of friends that are working artists and something I never hear them complain about is money. They don't do it for the money, they do it because they are driven to create from the inside. Consequently, their work is honest and collectors like it enough to pay them cash for the artwork. The government has no role in art outside of purchasing works and teaching children. Reliance on government and tax dollars corrupts the arts.

Patricia Davis 1 year, 6 months ago

What gives me fits is the public supporting of private for profit businesses. Art is essential. Doug Compton's projects not so much.

question4u 1 year, 6 months ago

Michelangelo's David: CORRUPT! (paid for by the Republic of Florence with tax dollars)

Gauguin's Tahitian paintings: CORRUPT! (paid for by a grant from the French Ministry of education using tax dollars)

Picasso's Guernica: CORRUPT! (paid for by the Spanish Republic with tax dollars)

John Steuart Curry, Thomas Hart Benton, Marsden Hartley, Arshile Gorky, Adolph Gottlieb, William Gropper, Philip Guston, Lee Krasner, Jacob Lawrence, Alice Neel, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Willam De Kooning, John Sloan, Ben Shahn, Raphaeil Soyer, Grant Wood, Stuart Davis: CORRUPT! (all of them were on the payroll of the FAP, as were scores of other well known American artists)

In fact, if government and tax dollars corrupt art then a HUGE part of the history of world art has been nothing but corruption.

On the other hand, that corruption stuff could just be nonsense.

Liberty275 1 year, 6 months ago

"On the other hand, that corruption stuff could just be nonsense."

No, it's just the other million "artists" that made victim art pablum because that's what gets the grants.

George_Braziller 1 year, 6 months ago

What is "sports art"? A photograph of a football? A t-shirt with a hockey puck silk screened on it? Maybe the Nascar logo painted in oil with dogs playing poker in the foreground.

ontheright 1 year, 6 months ago

You want your EBT card .... or Art? There is enough free money for the taking! We can't fund everything!

chootspa 1 year, 6 months ago

We certainly can't fund everything while giving away massive tax cuts to the Kochs.

oldbaldguy 1 year, 6 months ago

attended symphony in the flint hills at ft riley. besides sponsors and ticket sales, who paid for that? the governor was there to take credit for it. he actually got some boos besides polite applause when introduced. everybody stood for recognition of the troops, not him. great show, not sure i would go again.

Rational_Kansan 1 year, 6 months ago

The state of Kansas used to give grants to this and could legitimately claim credit for supporting it. But now, state support comes only from Missouri as the Missouri Arts Council grants funds to the Kansas City Symphony. Shouldn't Kansas support the event it is touting with more than just an appearance by the Governor? This event is a huge draw to the Fint Hills, bringing in tourism dollars and huge acclaim.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 6 months ago

Excellent editorial.

I think funding the Arts should be considered a responsibility of a state (government). It should not be a subject of debate other than to determine how much can be afforded in a budget.

Art is a cultural responsibility of a society.

If Brownback could find those funds elsewhere so be it, but it did not happen. The results of his plan have been disastrous.

jafs 1 year, 6 months ago

If funding art is a state responsibility, there are other questions, like which art to support, I'd say.

Unless you have unlimited funds, you can't support all of the artists.

Centerville 1 year, 6 months ago

"I think funding the Arts should be considered a responsibility of a State." said Nina Wurtmuller.

Thinking_Out_Loud 1 year, 6 months ago

Uh, Centerville...do you mean Lina Wertmuller?

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