The Garden City Telegram
9/10/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Arts push

Continued assault on arts hurts rural areas of state.

News of a federal grant on the way to Kansas was welcome.

Supporters of the arts in the Sunflower State were pleased to hear the National Endowment for the Arts will provide matching funding of $560,000 to the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC).

It was indeed good to see a positive development on the arts front, considering the attack on those endeavors from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his ultraconservative allies.

With a 2011 veto of the Kansas Arts Commission's entire $689,000 budget, Brownback made the state the focus of unwanted attention nationwide, as Kansas became the first state intent on eliminating arts funding — a strategy that promised to shut down community theater productions, art shows and other programs, and erase arts-related jobs.

Brownback, who believed private contributions could make up the difference, failed to acknowledge that scrapping the arts budget would be most painful in rural parts of Kansas that already have fewer arts options.

Thanks to backlash from Kansans angered by the assault on the arts, the governor eventually realized the negative political fallout and recommended restoring $700,000 in funding for the following fiscal year.

But the interest in shortchanging the arts continued, as state funding for the KCAIC was cut from $700,000 to just $200,000 for FY2014. As a result, future NEA matching funds could be in jeopardy.

The latest cuts also left the KCAIC with little choice other than focusing on large regional grants instead of smaller grants that support local arts organizations.

Waning funding has organizations such as the Garden City Arts seeking new ways to boost membership and generate income through arts workshops and classes.

While they deserve credit for doing so, their efforts also warrant adequate state support. Forward-thinking governments know the arts maintain and improve quality of life — a critical issue at a time rural areas in particular don't need any setback that makes them less attractive to prospective residents and businesses.

Sadly, that reality is lost on the powers that be in Topeka who remain keen on shortsighted budget cuts, with little if any regard for the inevitable negative fallout.