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.