Opinion Columns & Blogs

Continue state arts agency

By now, many of you have learned of Gov. Sam Brownback's proposal to terminate the Kansas Arts Commission in July 2011 and of his suggestion that a private, nonprofit entity be established to raise funds and manage the activities currently carried out by the commission. This is not a feasible or prudent alternative.

The National Endowment for the Arts has determined that the state of Kansas will lose all federal partnership funds (in 2011, almost $800,000) if the commission is no longer a state agency and funds are not matched by the state as required by the NEA. Moreover, additional funds and services from the Mid-America Arts Alliance that have been provided to the commission would not be granted to a private, nonprofit organization, so the total loss in funds and services to the arts in Kansas would be more than $1.2 million.

Arts organizations raise private funds regularly. However, patrons prefer to fund programs or capital projects such as buildings; few wish to donate for ongoing operating costs such as salaries and utilities. Rather than providing funds and offering services to strengthen the effectiveness of arts organizations throughout Kansas, this new nonprofit would compete with them for funds.

The arts provide substantial economic development and jobs in Kansas. According to Americans for the Arts, the Kansas nonprofit arts sector is a $153.3 million industry that supports more than 4,000 jobs and generates more than $15 million in state and local government revenues. In Sedgwick County, nonprofit arts organizations generate more than $49.1 million in local economic activity, support 814 jobs, generate more than $20.3 million in household income to local residents, and provide $4.75 million in local and state government revenue.

Moreover, the arts provide the quality of life that retains and attracts first-class companies with high-paying jobs and brings creative people to our state.

State funding for the commission was cut by 50 percent over the past two years, so the agency already has reduced its activities and services substantially. However, I believe that it is crucial that the Kansas Arts Commission remain a state agency, as exists in every other state, and be funded at its current level of about $800,000. I ask you to contact your state senators and representatives to urge them to do so.