Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Editorial: Kansas Arts Failure

Editorial from the Lawrence Journal-World
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.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New arts commission "highly dysfuntional"

Democrats skeptical of Kansas arts funding endeavor

Brownback emphasis on art business development

By Tim Carpenter
The Legislature's top House and Senate Democrats expressed doubt Friday about the texture and appeal of Gov. Sam Brownback's overhaul of Kansas government's financial contribution to the arts.
"The administration has pretty much dropped the ball on the whole issue," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.
His peer in the House, Lawrence Democratic Rep. Paul Davis, described the current incarnation of a state arts program as "highly dysfunctional."
In the aftermath of Brownback's defunding in 2011 of the Kansas Arts Commission and the uncertain financial impact of a private arts foundation launched to supplant KAC, lawmakers last year went a different direction by appropriating $700,000 to a new arts-promotion entity within the Kansas Department of Commerce.
The Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, formally added to the government's roster seven months ago, has yet to issue an arts grant of any kind.
A request submitted by the commerce department to the National Endowment for the Arts for matching funding for Kansas is pending, and no decision is expected on federal assistance until July. Brownback's elimination of KAC triggered withdrawal of $1.2 million in grants to Kansas by the NEA and the Mid-America Arts Alliance.
The new commission's advisory board met for the first time Thursday, and the 11 members elected Lana Gordon, secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor and a former Topeka House member, as chairwoman of the group.
Linda Browning Weis, who is a Manhattan member of the commission's board, said there was consensus to make available about $550,000 in state funding to assist arts industries. Approximately $150,000 would be used as incentives to attract new or expanding businesses and $400,000 to aid community projects tied to economic development in the arts.
"We are setting up opportunities for people to create jobs," Weis said.
Dan Lara, spokesman for the commerce department, said examples of commission grants might be a package in support of a city attempting to form a commercial arts district. He said another possibility was appropriation of incentives to attract a special-effects movie company to the state.
Meanwhile, Brownback requested the Legislature cut state contributions to the new commission to $200,000 in the fiscal year starting July 1 and in the subsequent fiscal year.
Lara said  it was premature to determine whether a reduction in state funding recommended by Brownback would jeopardize prospects of securing matching grants from NEA and other external funding sources.
"It's clearly inadequate," said Davis, "in terms of getting support from the National Endowment for the Arts and Mid-America Arts Alliance."
Hensley said advocates of public arts funding should make their opinions known in the Statehouse as legislators consider budget adjustments.
"The arts community, I think, needs to come to the Legislature and advocate for themselves," he said.

Tim Carpenter can be reached at (785) 295-1158 or
Read Tim's blog.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kansas Creative Arts Industries questioned by commissioners

It looks like the new Kansas Arts Commission is more shaky than we realized.  Art non-profits and artists need to demand an accounting for the $700,000 allocated this year. As the saying goes - If we don't use it, we may lose it ... maybe forever.