'Falling backwards': Lawrence artists react to Kansas Arts Commission closing

Sidewalk chalk on the south side of the capitol building expresses the feelings of Kansas Arts Commission supporters.

Sidewalk chalk on the south side of the capitol building expresses the feelings of Kansas Arts Commission supporters.

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KT Walsh of the Percolator art collective in Lawrence on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011 displays her "John Brown" puppet during rally protesting elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission.

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Sidewalk chalk on the south side of the capitol building expresses the feelings of Kansas Arts Commission supporters.

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Sidewalk chalk on the south side of the capitol building expresses the feelings of Kansas Arts Commission supporters.

Upcoming/Ongoing arts events

“What Float’s Your Boat” fundraiser

When: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., June 18

Where: Clinton Lake Marina

What: Summer barbecue, live art auction and fundraiser. Food from McGonigle’s BBQ, beer from 23rd St. Brewery and music from Groove Agency will be provided.

Tickets: $60 ticket price. To order, or for more information, visit www.van-go.org.

Art for Governor Brownback

When: Ongoing

What: Supporters of the Kansas Arts Commission are encouraged to sent art to the governor’s residence.

For more information: Find Art for Governor Brownback on Facebook.

By the numbers

This fiscal year, the Kansas Arts Commission is supporting 16 different Lawrence artists and art groups through 27 separate grants. Here’s a breakdown of where that $121,957 has gone.

  1. Americana Music Academy — $3,862
  2. Baldwin City Community Theater — $2,207
  3. Baldwin Community Arts Council — $1,696
  4. Downtown Lawrence Inc. — $2,000
  5. Francisca Maria Velasco — $5,000
  6. Friends of the Theatre (KU Endowment) — $2,742
  7. Lawrence Art Guild Association — $3,421
  8. Lawrence Arts Center — $16,766
  9. Lawrence Chamber Orchestra — $1,777
  10. Lawrence Children’s Choir — $14,286
  11. Lawrence Community Theatre (Theatre Lawrence) — $13,126
  12. Lucia Orth — $1,927
  13. Mari LaCure — $289
  14. The Lied Center — $16,286
  15. Spencer Museum of Art — $21,286
  16. Van Go Mobile Arts — $15,286

Total 2011 fiscal budget for Kansas — 14 billion; funds appropriated for the KAC — $798,000 (.006 percent of the total budget)

Total 2012 Fiscal Budget for Kansas –– $13.8 billion; funds appropriated for the KAC — $689,000 (.005 percent of the total budget)

With one stroke of a pen, Gov. Sam Brownback ruined Mary Doveton’s holiday weekend.

“I think we were all holding out until the last ray of hope ...” said the Theatre Lawrence leader, letting her voice trail off.

As it stands, starting July 1, the only extra dollars going into the coffers of Kansas arts organizations like Theatre Lawrence will come from private donors.

Next month, Kansas arts organizations will have no direct access to government funding — state, regional or national. For Lawrence, that means a certain loss of at least $121,957 from the state. That’s the amount city organizations and artists received in 2010 from the Kansas Arts Commission.

In January, Brownback indicated he wanted to privatize the KAC and eliminate state funding for the organization, which supplies grants and other funds statewide. The move was designed to save a total of $689,000 from the $13.8 billion state budget.

However, taking away state funding to the KAC also eliminates roughly $1.2 million in federal funding because both the National Endowment of the Arts and the Mid-America Arts Alliance can only deliver money to state-funded programs. As a result, any privatized arts entity would have to compete with its own grantees for money.

Though Kansans fought back, encouraging legislators to leave the KAC in the state’s 2012 fiscal budget, the governor used his line-item veto power to eliminate it from the budget Saturday morning.

“I know I’ve had a number of questions about how the funding cuts will affect the theater. Up until this weekend, I would tell them I’d hope that it wouldn’t happen,” said Doveton, who is now officially facing a $13,000 hole for fiscal year 2012. “I had the good fortune of being present when the Senate was voting on it. And I got to hear what some of the senators were saying about the arts — both the people who were voting in favor of restoring funding and those who were voting against it.

“I really thought after that huge outpouring that the governor might reconsider.”

“Trend-setting” changes

He didn’t.

In fact, Doveton said Brownback wasn’t present at all for the funding discussion for the KAC.

The Brownback camp promises to personally help raise money for the privatized council, and while many defended the KAC as an entity to help attract federal arts funding, Brownback said federal funding of the arts was going to decrease because of budget pressures and the national deficit.

“While we may be a trendsetter now in the area, I think you are going to see a number of states pursue this same avenue that we are doing in the state of Kansas,” he said.

Despite that assurance of personal aid, local arts organizations have been shoring up their defenses — both before and after the final elimination of the KAC. Doveton, along with Lynne Green of Van Go Mobile Arts and Janeal Krehbiel of the Lawrence Children’s Choir, all say they have upcoming financial planning meetings on the schedule to hammer out how to make up the shortfall. All say they do not want to raise tuition, though they are looking at losing federal money, too. It is unclear as to whether anyone in Washington, D.C., will address the possibility of using NEA money to directly fund a private state arts organization that doesn’t have its own government’s backing.

“I think most of all the arts organizations in Lawrence are all in the same boat. We’re all kind of exploring and obviously looking for donations, looking for underwriters, looking for sponsors, looking at grant possibilities,” Doveton said. “I think we’re all looking at those options and exploring and pushing them before we say, ‘Look guys, we’ve got to raise prices.’ Because, I think that’s the last thing that any of us want to do.”

Vermont’s rebuttal

On May 25, the Wednesday before Brownback’s decision, Alexander Aldrich, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, wrote an open letter to the governor. In it, he dismisses Brownback’s claims that a privatized version of the KAC would thrive — an assumption the governor had mentioned came from Aldrich’s VAC. Though a nonprofit organization, the VAC receives about $500,000 a year in state funds.

“First, in Vermont our nonprofit state arts agency is effective only BECAUSE there is significant state investment in our work,” Aldrich wrote. “Without a state appropriation of just over $500,000 we would be unable to provide the professional development services, educational outreach to underserved communities, accessibility services to hundreds of historic cultural venues that were built long before the passage of the ADA, and a host of other grants that support our creative sector.”

Aldrich also pointed out what many of the governor’s critics already have argued: Without funding, the state will not only lose out on those federal funds, but also the economic benefits derived from a thriving arts scene. An arts scene that employs local workers and encourages spending not only on the arts themselves (tickets, works, lessons), but also on the accompaniments of a good time — a dinner out before a show, dessert or drinks afterward.

“Our sector provides good jobs. It adds enormous social and civic value to our communities,” wrote Aldrich, who estimated Vermont’s return of investment from the arts is a whopping 775 percent. “It improves the relationship that young people have with their schools and communities. And it serves as a powerful attraction to entrepreneurs seeking to locate their new businesses in a creative, vital community setting. The ‘creative economy’ is real, and it is thriving here in Vermont. I believe that all these arguments are relevant to making the case for keeping the Kansas Arts Commission on sound financial, PUBLIC footing.”

Aldrich and Kansas arts supporters aren’t going to get that wish anytime soon, it seems. On Wednesday, the Kansas House failed to override the veto in the last legislative session of 2011. The override won the simple majority of the votes 50-44, but it would have needed two-thirds majority to succeed.

“This veto makes Kansas the laughingstock of the nation,” said Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka.

Indeed, neighbors in the arts community — though not yet fearful of a similar move by their states despite Brownback’s insistence on Kansas being a “trendsetter” — are wondering what’s really happening in the country’s heart.

“I’ve had phone calls from some my colleagues, and once again, to a certain extent, it’s ‘What’s the matter with Kansas?’ that they would even consider something like that,” said Tim Van Leer, executive director of the Lied Center, which will lose direct funding for the programs it provides to Lawrence-area school children. “Especially, with the amount of money that’s being impacted and the impact that that money has. That’s the really incredible thing — that the governor believes that a private foundation can make the arts flourish in Kansas, when there is an organization that already helps the arts flourish in Kansas. And so, it’s like falling backwards and starting all over again.”

— Statehouse reporter Scott Rothschild contributed to this report.

Comments

boxturtle 4 years ago

I hope a local gallery does a exhibition of art inspired by Brownback.

barlowtl 3 years, 12 months ago

Or perhaps stick figures, that's how he sees people, 1 dimentional and faceless. This is what happens when we don't pay attention when we vote. No one wants to move to a dead state and he is choking the life out of Kansas. I can't believe he is a native Kansan.

Jimo 4 years ago

Indeed. Many prospective investors and employers are going to say "What's the matter with Kansas?" and focus their business elsewhere.

Bob_Loblaw 4 years ago

Kansas.....the newest Fourth World nation....

bastet 4 years ago

This was budget cutting with a hatchet instead of a scalpel. What can we do with a governor who refuses to listen to the people who elected him? There was no dialogue, no compromise, no attention paid to the quality of life of Kansans across the state. This action goes deeper than not funding some arts project that some individuals may not like; this action kills jobs and takes away fundamental and tangible support for children and rural communities, and slices deep into the ways in which we become better members of our society and better human beings. I am afraid for Kansas and its citizens and the citizens of the nation if as Brownback suggests, WE are "trendsetters."

overthemoon 4 years ago

I agree. As an artist, a parent and a frequent consumer of arts programming, I find this situation to be outrageous. But it has more to do with Brownback making an opening salvo and showing that he has no intention of listening to anyone outside of his small circle of friends and his fellow GOP governors across the country that are acting as a unified and coordinated force for providing the total corporatization of our country. That is the trend he's talking about.

Lets see what happens in the Wisconsin recall elections...which the Republican leadership has been caught red handed trying to sabotage.

tir 4 years ago

I agree with Jimo.Eliminating state funding for the arts makes Kansas less attractive to new businesses. So does making huge cuts in education funding. Who would want to establish a new business in a state that doesn't support the arts or its schools? Or a state where the separation of church and state is jeopardized as the governor turns the operation of important state agencies over to his own hand-picked religious nut-jobs to run in accordance with their narrow-minded religious principles? Brown-whack says he is going to create new jobs in Kansas. Well, where are they? The cuts to arts and education will eliminate jobs, and discourage new business. Obviously the governor's priorities are not what he claims.

thatonedude 4 years ago

If only we lived in a society where all those people could afford to do that.

thepianoman 4 years ago

I have been saying this throughout this ordeal....Government has no business funding arts...This should be done in the private sector...Good god people use some common sense...Funding artists and arts organizations is not a core function of government..

It's interesting that these organizations, such as Lawrece Comm. Theatre, make money off ticket sales, plus private donations, plus government monies...Good god..... Hmmmm. Hell, I'm paying for the LCT's production, shouldn't I get to see this show for free???

Time for the liberal elitists to quit bumming off the government...It looks as though you have no choice but to raise the monies yourselves huh??

Brock Masters 4 years ago

I agree with what you wrote and only will add that it seems like these programs were not very popular and being kept alive by my tax dollars; a form of life support I suppose.

question4u 4 years ago

Absolutely, let's stick to the core function of government. Everyone should join thepianoman in writing to governor Brownback and urging him to sell state parks and recreation lands. The state should also get out of the business of stocking fishing lakes and selling fishing and hunting licenses. Let private companies purchase those lands and regulate hunting and fishing on them. Even if you could entirely fund the activities of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks from license and use fees, it is a joke to suggest that entertainment like hunting fishing and camping is anything like a "core function" of government.

The Arts Commission provided a positive return on investment, so it doesn't matter whether state parks and recreation areas do or not. The Arts Commission cost the average tax payer 29 cents, so the cost of maintaining state parks and recreation areas is basically irrelevant. As thepianoman points out, there's no use being logical. The only thing that matters is whether something is a "core function' of government. So state parks and recreation areas must go. It's time that hunters, fishermen and campers paid for their activities, not at the rate that the state charges but at the fair market rate that will be set by private companies.

Thanks thepianoman. It's good to see that someone has common sense.

Brock Masters 4 years ago

KDWP gets very little tax dollars and hunting activities are funded completely by fees.

overthemoon 4 years ago

The KDWP is a STATE AGENCY. Who do you think pays the salaries of the 420 people employed by the agency??

Fisheries and Wildlife

This division provides the technical expertise to manage fish , wildlife , and public land resources in the state. The Investigations, Inventory, and Management sections evaluate fish and wildlife populations, conduct research, monitor environmental conditions, improve wildlife habitats, survey recreationists, and recommend adjustments in fish and wildlife regulations. The Fish Culture Section produces and stocks millions of sportfish in waters across the state each year. The Public Lands Section manages department lands for optimum wildlife habitat, as well as recreational opportunities for hunters, anglers, birdwatchers, and hikers.

thepianoman 4 years ago

I have been saying this throughout this ordeal....Government has no business funding arts...This should be done in the private sector...Good god people use some common sense...Funding artists and arts organizations is not a core function of government..

It's interesting that these organizations, such as Lawrece Comm. Theatre, make money off ticket sales, plus private donations, plus government monies...Good god..... Hmmmm. Hell, I'm paying for the LCT's production, shouldn't I get to see this show for free???

Time for the liberal elitists to quit bumming off the government...It looks as though you have no choice but to raise the monies yourselves huh??

thepianoman 4 years ago

I have been saying this throughout this ordeal....Government has no business funding arts...This should be done in the private sector...Good god people use some common sense...Funding artists and arts organizations is not a core function of government..

It's interesting that these organizations, such as Lawrece Comm. Theatre, make money off ticket sales, plus private donations, plus government monies...Good god..... Hmmmm. Hell, I'm paying for the LCT's production, shouldn't I get to see this show for free???

Time for the liberal elitists to quit bumming off the government...It looks as though you have no choice but to raise the monies yourselves huh??

thepianoman 4 years ago

I have been saying this throughout this ordeal....Government has no business funding arts...This should be done in the private sector...Good god people use some common sense...Funding artists and arts organizations is not a core function of government..

It's interesting that these organizations, such as Lawrece Comm. Theatre, make money off ticket sales, plus private donations, plus government monies...Good god..... Hmmmm. Hell, I'm paying for the LCT's production, shouldn't I get to see this show for free???

Time for the liberal elitists to quit bumming off the government...It looks as though you have no choice but to raise the monies yourselves huh??

thepianoman 4 years ago

Sorry for the duplicate submissions!

jd 4 years ago

'Veto B-Back, Picasso" That's funny as Picasso never received public funding for his art.

Sally Piller 4 years ago

Really jd? You sure about that? Spain and France give tons of public funding for artists.

overthemoon 4 years ago

"Guernica"? Commissioned by the Spanish Gov't for the Spanish Pavillion at 1937 Worlds Fair.

Soapbox 4 years ago

Sorry children, but we pay our bills first and then if we have some money left over we save for emergencies! Once in awhile we save harder by cutting back and go on dates, this happens most often in good economic times.....this is not one of them. Did anyone read any other headlines? Any other papers, CNN or other news sources?

gudpoynt 4 years ago

Sorry soapbox, the budget that was just passed leaves the state with a surplus. There IS money left over.

jayhawkster 4 years ago

During the second world war, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding. Churchill replied: “Then what are we fighting for?”

And I think both your argument and Brownback's belies the positive economic impact arts funding has. When the de Medici's funded the Sistine Chapel (they were, in fact, the government), it wasn't with the knowledge that their investment would still be reaping gains hundreds of years later. But it did (and still does). People like to be surrounded by that which is creative and those societies that cultivate creativity prosper the most.

If you want cuts, cut something that doesn't generate income (Brownback's salary). Also, your argument about paying our bills first is disengenuous. This is five one-thousandths of a percent of the State Budget. His cut was ideological not practical.

overthemoon 4 years ago

because it has a high return on investment. money put into the arts actually generates MORE money in the state economy. How hard is this to understand???

notanota 4 years ago

Math is hard for people who come from underfunded public education systems.

notanota 4 years ago

You know, I wouldn't be so quick to say that. Public funding has been used to purchase quite a few Picassos for museums, and since he died in the 70's, I wouldn't be at all surprised if at least a few of those purchases were direct sales.

Kontum1972 4 years ago

i am sure HE will put all this money to good use....are there any republican artist out there?

goodcountrypeople 4 years ago

Link to insightful "Open Letter to Governor Brownback" posted by the California Arts Council on Facebook:

http://minnesotaplaylist.com/blogs/open-letter-kansas-governor-sam-brownback

overthemoon 4 years ago

This is a must read letter. The losses to the state will be MUCH higher than a piddling 29 cents per year per taxpayer.

notanota 4 years ago

Sorry Soapbox, but when I don't have enough money to pay my bills, I get a second job, I ask my boss for a raise, or I get a better job. Arts funding is not about going on dates or buying a cheaper brand of peanut butter. It's about employment. This isn't the time to make things worse with austerity measures, and your family budget argument is tiresome and weak.

That arts funding, which was a very small portion of the budget and was not deficit spending, brought matching federal funds and employed dancers, music teachers, and gallery workers. We're now out both state and federal funding. What's more, that funding brought jobs. Hear that? Brownback lost us jobs. He's a job killer, plain and simple.

thepianoman 4 years ago

WHAT???? My piano teacher NEVER received (still doesn't to this day) funding from the arts Commission. The arts Commission did not help employ her...She never once received a dime from them.....Brown back made the right choice....

If this cause is so important to you...Break out your checkbook and get to funding these artists and organizations......It is important to you right? I assume you are now joining the cause in keeping the arts alive, right?

notanota 4 years ago

Piano teachers offer recital concerts over at the LAC, supported by KCA/NEA funding, which is something (had it existed at the time) your piano teacher could have done, too. If that space didn't exist, they'd have to rent a concert hall or stop having recitals.

I've been supporting the arts for years, thanks, but all I've seen you doing here is undermining them.

optimist 4 years ago

What I see here are a number of prospective donors. If it is that important to you get out your checkbook and write a check. Sounds to me like many here are more comfortable spending other people’s money than their own.

oneclassicgirl 4 years ago

we DO spend our own money on the arts already! By taking classes, purchasing local art, attending art functions and fundraisers, participating whenever and wherever we are able!

what would really be interesting to see is if any prospective companies, that are/were wanting to bring their businesses to KS, change their mind as a result...

Sally Piller 4 years ago

People, this is not and never was about the budget!!! It's about right wing holy roller millionaires, a corrupt bunch if ever their was one, wanting to shut us up. They think the arts are dangerous and lead to inconvenient things like expression. Picasso is a great example of an artist that pissed off those in power. All of you complaining that you don't want to waste of few pennies annually on supporting the arts deserve the country you're going to get.

notanota 4 years ago

Arts funding was passed by a bipartisan majority. This isn't a R vs D argument. This is Brownback being foolish and unwise with his stewardship of Kansas taxpayer money.

BigPrune 4 years ago

When the Lawrence Arts Center was built, it was because the Lawrence Arts Center in the Carnegie Library was getting over 300,000 visitors per year! The new building also got a parking garage across the street. What more do they need from us taxpayers, over $16 grand?

overthemoon 4 years ago

600,000 in a multi BILLION dollar budget? Hon...this is NOT about saving money.

notanota 4 years ago

The money was already in the budget. The already balanced budget, which was passed by a bipartisan majority. Brownback cut it out of spite using a line item veto, and in the process he lost federal funding and JOBS. That's right, he made the economy worse by cutting jobs.

texasforever 3 years, 12 months ago

Why dont you hippies get a job and pay for your own stuff instead of begging for handouts? Art is a hobby. Treat it as such.

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