I know I haven’t blogged lately, between the massive amounts of snow Kansas has received in the past week and personal things, I just haven’t had much to talk about it seems. Then I read this editorial from the Wichita Eagle about Kansas and the arts and it was time to speak and to blog.
If you don’t know, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said in 2011 that the arts “were not a core service deserving of public dollars.” This in turn prompted the Legislature to intervene. Now the Governor has proposed a $500,000 cut to the state arts budget by proposing a budget of $200,000 a year for the next two years. Governor Brownback also eliminated the Kansas Arts Commission and its nearly 45 years of experience in arts advocacy. In its place the state created the new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. The KCAIC has two main programs; the Creative Economy Project Support and Creative Arts Industry Incentives and their main focus is on creating jobs and building public-private partnerships. However according to the Arts Advocacy group, Kansas Citizens for the Arts, “The new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission is not doing enough to support the arts in Kansas. No funds have been granted yet, with the funding year almost half over, and the proposed programs are not what artists and arts organizations have said they need.”
The KCAIC also seems to be in a state of disarray They held their first meeting in January and there is confusion about who answers to whom. And with this confusion and seemingly slowness to act, it doesn’t look like Kansas will be able to restore the $1.2 million in annual funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mid-America Alliance that we used to receive, anytime soon.
The Governor’s plans for the arts, and one he heavily touted, was a private organization called the Kansas Arts Foundation. Their vision statement states that they are
…a unique charitable foundation that secures private funds and empowers Kansas Arts communities and talent, while impacting, inspiring and sustaining the future of the Arts culture for generations of Kansans to come.
That’s fantastic and we need more groups like this, private and governmental agencies working together. But so far they have had little to no impact. Last week they announced its first three grants, a staggering amount of $6,500 to three (deserving) groups.
Why is this so important to me? In the past, I’ve blogged about the importance for using theater as a means of social and societal change, but I try to remain pretty apolitical on here because I know that there are people of all political stripes who visit my blog and I try to appease everyone but on this I must take a stand. I’ve seen first hand how theater can draw a shy kid into the light. I’ve seen how painting can be a cure for depression. I’ve seen poetry used as therapy. I could go on and on but I won’t. I’ll also say I’ve seen colleges struggle to get money to put on quality shows and be more selective on who and how many or drop their theater departments completely in lieu of channeling that funding elsewhere thus denying students an opportunity to experience and learn something news and denying a community the chance to see something they’ve never seen before. I’ve seen community theaters using borrowed venues and hours of volunteer services struggle to have their work recognized by more than a handful or even a couple hundred people in a town with a population of almost 21,000 people. Support from the state, even in the form of small grants, could help these groups in so many ways.
So why should we support the arts? According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, there are 4 good reasons why the arts make a good public sector investment.
• ECONOMIC DRIVERS: The arts create jobs and produce tax revenue. A strong arts sector is
an economic asset that stimulates business activity, attracts tourism revenue, retains a high
quality work force and stabilizes property values. The arts have been shown to be a successful
and sustainable strategy for revitalizing rural areas, inner cities and populations struggling with
• EDUCATIONAL ASSETS: The arts foster young imaginations and facilitate children’s success in
school. They provide the critical thinking, communications and innovation skills essential to a
productive 21st-century work force.
• CIVIC CATALYSTS: The arts create a welcoming sense of place and a desirable quality of life.
The arts also support a strong democracy, engaging citizens in civic discourse, dramatizing
important issues and encouraging collective problem solving.
• CULTURAL LEGACIES: The arts preserve unique culture and heritage, passing a state’s
precious cultural character and traditions along to future generations
And they have the research to back up their claims.
I’ve gone on longer then I intended to on this blog post, but this is something that I’m passionate in supporting. Garrison Keillor once said “People don’t come to America for our airports, people don’t come to America for our hotels… they come for our culture, real and imagined.” It’s time we remind our lawmakers of that.
If you live in Kansas, I urge you to take part in Arts Day At The Capitol. That doesn’t mean you have to drive to Topeka and be a part (though it would be great if you could), it means calling your state congressman and senator and tell them “I support the arts!” Let your voice be heard.
IMPORTANT LINKS TO FOLLOW!
Kansas State Legislature
Governor Brownback’s Twitter
Governor Brownback’s Facebook
Kansas Citizens for the Arts
Kansas Arts Foundation
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
Wichita Eagle editorial that provided much of the research into this.