I am a student of the liberal arts. I have never been adept at math or science and I never really considered pursuing either subject at the college level. For me, it was arts all the way.
For this reason, Gov. Sam Brownback’s recent proposition to phase out funding to the Kansas Arts Commission by this summer is weighing heavily on my heart.
The KAC was founded in 1966 and supports arts in Kansas through grant-funding and other fiscal support of Kansas’ artists. Brownback’s proposal would eliminate state funding to the KAC and force the organization to become privatized. This cannot happen.
It is natural in tough economic times to attempt to tighten the budget and cut costs. So in this regard, Brownback’s proposal seems like an okay idea. But when you look at the actual numbers, his theory that cutting funding to the KAC saves the state money does not work out.
According to the KAC website, if the organization loses funding, the state of Kansas will lose over $1 million in direct federal funding and regional grants each year. State and local governments would lose approximately $15 million in revenue that is generated from the Kansas non-profit arts and cultural section.
So really, the budget sheet out of the state house may look a bit better if the KAC loses funding, but local governments around the state will be gravely affected by this proposition.
The main reason for Brownback’s proposal is the loss of federal stimulus dollars that will occur at the end of this fiscal year. The state is also facing unemployment issues with approximately 100,000 residents out of work.
Cutting funding to the KAC will put a strain on every arts organization in the state. Some of them, it is unfortunate to say, will not survive the loss of funding. People who work in these ill-fated organizations will lose their jobs. For all the talk Brownback has initiated in terms of getting the unemployment rate under control, he does not seem to be conscious on the effect this new proposition will have on those employed by arts organizations in the state.
The arts are intertwined in the fabric of our society. They represent the heart and soul of Kansas. Throughout the history of our state, the arts have been a constant outlet for Kansans. In times of hardship or triumph, the arts have given us a medium to express our emotions – a way of commiserating and connecting on a personal level. If something as sacred and honest as art is allowed to fall to the wayside for the purpose of finding a quick fix for the budget issues the state is facing, I shudder to think of what Kansas could become.
I urge everyone to take action to ensure that Brownback is not allowed to follow through with this mistake. Contact your representative in Topeka to let him or her know that Kansans do not take this issue lightly.
To overlook art is to overlook what makes us human. Anyone who has ever picked up a pen, brush or guitar knows this to be true. If Brownback doesn’t see it this way, then it is the artist’s job to show him.
Go to http://capwiz.com/artsusa/issues/alert/?alertid=22477501 to send a letter opposing Brownback’s proposition.
Eric Hemphill/The Bulletin