Arts & Culture

Kansas restores state arts funding, but matching funds won’t return until 2014

Although the new budget signed by Gov. Sam Brownback last week restored state funding for the arts, it will take at least another year for federal and regional matching funds to follow.

Kansas won’t get any matching funds in fiscal 2013, said Mary Kennedy, executive director of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, which, along with the National Endowment for the Arts, supplied matching grants, programs and services until Brownback cut arts funding out of the state budget a year ago.

“This is sort of an interim year for them to basically get ramped up and back in the mix,” Kennedy said.

The budget Brownback signed into law Friday includes $700,000 for the new Creative Arts Industries Commission, which will combine the un-funded Kansas Arts Commission and the Kansas Film Commission within the Department of Commerce. Legislators allocated the money from the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, which comes from gambling revenue.

The commission won’t exist until the new fiscal year starts July 1, said Dan Lara, public information officer in the Kansas Commerce Department. An 11-member advisory board will be appointed by Brownback and the Legislature. Then the commission will have to determine guidelines for arts groups to apply for money and begin seeking matching funds.

Effects of lost funding

Kansas became the first state in the nation to stop funding the arts last year when Brownback vetoed $700,000 for the former arts commission. He contended arts programs should rely more on private dollars, leaving tax dollars to finance core government functions.

The move cost the state about $1.2 million in grants, including $800,000 from the NEA, and $400,000 from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Those organizations said the state no longer met their criteria for partnership, which, among other things, requires a state arts plan, an experienced staff and a budget.

The Mid-America Arts Alliance had to come up with a new policy for reinstating its funds because of what Kansas did last year, Kennedy said.

That policy requires Kansas to take a series of steps by Oct. 1 to be eligible for NEA and Mid-America Arts Alliance funding by 2014. The state has to get its new commission selected, hire the three full-time staffers provided for under the new state budget, develop an NEA-approved state arts plan and apply for partnership with the NEA.

There could be some good news for Kansas in the delay. Kennedy said her organization is modifying its programs and increasing its fundraising.

“They could benefit at a higher level than they have in the past,” she said.

Restored funding

Meanwhile, arts advocates saluted Brownback’s decision not to veto arts funds this year.

Sarah Fizell, executive administrator for Kansas Citizens for the Arts, said the restored funding will help achieve Brownback’s goal of boosting rural population through economic development from arts events.

“I think it’s a real victory for rural, urban, rich, poor ... for all of Kansas,” she said.

“I think all the folks in the arts communities are happy that Kansas is going to be one of the states that recognize the value of the arts,” said Wayne Bryan, producing artistic director for Music Theatre of Wichita. “I think it’s a good day for everybody.”

It will help improve the state’s reputation in the arts, he said.

“Kansas seems always to have to fight a perception by others that we are not at the forefront of cultural awareness. This points us back in the right direction,” Bryan said.

Music Theatre derives only a small portion of its $3 million budget from state arts funds, he said. Most comes from tickets sales and fundraising events. Restoring the state funding is more important to arts groups in rural areas that don’t have a large base of donors, Bryan said.

“This will be very good news for them, and we will certainly hope they will be the first served,” he said.

According to a tally by Kansas Citizens for the Arts, Sedgwick County organizations received $114,362 in arts commission funding during the 2011 fiscal year. Among recipients were the Arts Council, Ballet Wichita, Kansas African American Museum, Mid-America All-Indian Center, Music Theater of Wichita Inc., Tallgrass Film Festival, Wichita Grand Opera, Wichita State University and the Wichita Symphony Society.

Dana McPherson, president of the Wichita Black Arts Festival, which was canceled last year because of cuts in state funding and reduced donations during the recession, said he went to work Monday to get some state money back. Until last year, the festival was held for 43 years over Labor Day, and drew 5,000 to 6,000 people a day. It has been forced to hold some of the events separately. It recently it held its pageant to select this year’s king and queen.

McPherson said the festival has been working to raise money from other sources after learning it can’t just depend on state funds.

“We’re looking for self-sufficiency rather than seek support from entities that can take it away,” he said.

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