Editorial: Arts decline

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

June 18, 2013


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.


Centerville 10 months ago

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


jayhawklawrence 10 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.


oldbaldguy 10 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.


ontheright 10 months ago

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


toe 10 months ago

The arts community has done a poor job convincing the public it is in vital to the public interest. Instead of complaining, perhaps more effective efforts to educate the public. I thought the schools did a pretty good job on art education, but maybe this is simply another failing grade. Perhaps if the art community could strive for more sports art, they would gather more public interest.


question4u 10 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.


Patricia Davis 10 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.


Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 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?


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