Supporters of Kansas government arts funding are either misinformed or lying about the facts they use to make their case for continuation of taxpayer support of the arts.
Advocates of Kansas state government funding for arts make the case that if Governor Brownback succeeds in his plan to turn the Kansas Arts Commission into a non-profit organization, Kansas will be the only state without a government arts commission.
A Wichita Eagle editorial referred to Kansas becoming the “only state in the country without at least a quasigovernmental arts agency,” although writer Rhonda Holman qualified her remarks with “according to arts advocates.”
In another Wichita Eagle article, Joan Cole repeated this assertion when she wrote “I believe that it is crucial that the Kansas Arts Commission remain a state agency, as exists in every other state.” Cole is vice-chair of the Kansas arts commissioners.
But Cole and government arts funding advocates are wrong. She and they are either misinformed, or they are lying to advance their cause.
There is one state with a private arts commission or council, not a state agency. It’s listed on the Kansas Arts Commission page, if Commissioner Cole would care to read it: The Vermont Arts Council. On its website, we learn that “The Vermont Arts Council is the only designated state agency for the arts in the United States that is also a private, not-for-profit, 501(c)3, membership organization.”
National Endowment for the Arts funding
While I appreciate the KAC acknowledging what Cole and the Wichita Eagle will not, the KAC is still misinformed. In bold type, it states that if KAC becomes a nonprofit organization, “This entity will not be eligible for funds from The National Endowment of the Arts.”
Bu the Vermont Arts council — not a state agency, but a nonprofit organization — states: “Our funding comes from the State of Vermont, the National Endowment for the Arts, memberships, and private contributions.”
There’s another discrepancy.
Suppose the State of Kansas provides no state funds to an arts agency, which is Brownback’s proposal. Will that rule out receiving NEA funding? Indications are that Kansas officials have asked NEA this question, and NEA hasn’t provided a reason as to why Kansas couldn’t continue to receive funding. Amanda Grosserode, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, wrote in her newsletter that “enabling legislation for the NEA has also been thoroughly reviewed and no requirement for state funding to match federal funding has been found.”
In the end, the issue of NEA funding may soon become moot. The National Endowment for the Arts is an example of a federal agency that may be eliminated, or very likely have its budget cut. So there may not be much federal arts funding to worry about.
In the meantime, Kansans need to ask why government arts supporters are misinformed about simple facts, or they should ask why they are lying to Kansans. Government funding of the arts is bad for two reasons: economic and artistic. Misinformed or lying supporters aren’t helping their cause.