Kansas receiving arts funds, for now

Kansas is again receiving federal and regional arts funding. But will there be funding next year?
Kansas is again receiving federal and regional arts funding. But will there be funding next year?

It’s great that both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mid-America Arts Alliance have renewed their partnerships with Kansas. That will enable more Kansas artists and arts organizations to receive grants through the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission.

But the partnerships and funding could be short-lived. The current agreements are effective only through June 30. And if President Trump has his way, federal arts funding could be eliminated.

Kansas was set to miss out on about $800,000 in arts funding this fiscal year because state spending on the arts did not meet a minimum level set by the NEA. But the NEA delayed the final decision until late January, giving the KCAIC more time to come up with the matching funds.

To its credit, the NEA allowed Kansas to count some shared administrative services provided by the Kansas Department of Commerce, which helped the state meet the minimum funding level. Then last week, the M-AAA announced it also had restored Kansas’ partnership status.

Because most of this fiscal year is already over, that could limit how much funding is available. But the KCAIC approved nearly $140,000 in grants earlier this month. Local groups receiving grants include Chamber Music at the Barn ($5,000), Wichita Symphony Society ($5,000), the city of Maize ($5,000), Griots Storytelling Institute ($3,000), and Arts Partners ($2,775).

Arts funding in Kansas has had a rocky history in recent years. It lost $1.2 million in annual federal and regional arts funding after Gov. Sam Brownback abolished the state arts agency in 2011. The state requalified for funding after it created the KCAIC, but then was set to lose funding again this year.

This year’s requalification raises hopes for next fiscal year – though qualifying again could depend on how much funding the Legislature approves and the new funding requirement set by the NEA.

The other big uncertainty is whether there will be federal arts funding next year. Trump wants to eliminate funding to the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This is only a proposal that Congress would have to approve. And more than 150 members of Congress recently signed a letter calling for arts funding to be increased, not reduced.

But the prospect of losing federal funding has arts supporters concerned. The directors of 18 arts organizations in Kansas recently wrote a letter to the New York Times explaining the importance of federal arts funding in Kansas.

“Public funding for the arts is ultimately about strengthening partnerships to support creative endeavors for all citizens,” the letter said. It also noted that though the arts can persevere if funding is cut, they “cannot thrive without federal support.”

The arts are too important to education, the economy and the quality of life to merely survive. They need to thrive.