Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Topeka — The fight over state funding of the arts continued Wednesday.
In 2011, Brownback vetoed the Legislature’s $689,000 appropriation to the Kansas Arts Commission, making Kansas the first state in the nation to end state funding of arts programs. He said that arts funding was not a core function of government.
The move also cost Kansas $1.2 million in funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and Mid-American Arts Alliance, and many arts groups had to cancel or limit events and programs.
But after months of political heat, Brownback agreed to establish the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission in the Department of Commerce, and he and the Legislature approved a $700,000 appropriation starting July 1.
But none of that money has been disbursed to arts groups across the state, according to Peter Jasso, who is director the Creative Arts Industries Commission.
That raised the concern of several legislators during a meeting Wednesday of the Legislative Budget Committee.
“The cry to reinstate the arts was the local communities, the rural communities, the ones that suffered the most,” said state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, who is chairwoman of the committee.
State Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said the money should be used because numerous local arts groups depend on the grants.
“We didn’t expect it (the appropriation) to just sit there,” she said.
But Jasso said grants shouldn’t be allocated until after the commission has completed a new statewide strategic plan for arts funding, which will be submitted to the NEA. He said that should be done in January 2013. In addition, he said, the earliest the state could receive funding from the NEA is July 2013.
Susan Tate, executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center, said the loss of arts funding from the state has been a significant blow to the Kansas arts community.
But Tate agreed that the new Creative Arts Industries Commission should hold off disbursing funds for now.
“It’s a legitimate question, but I don’t think the Creative Arts Industries Commission has the infrastructure in place to receive grant requests, study the applications and distribute the money,” Tate said. “The priority has to be getting the strategic plan in place, then applying to the NEA, and demonstrating to them we have money and infrastructure in place.”
Tate said she would be serving on the steering committee that will provide guidance on the process of putting together a statewide plan.