Well, ain’t this a nice turn of events:

Today, a great victory has been won by everyone in the state of Kansas who loves the arts. The Governor this morning signed the budget, which includes $700,000 for the newly-created Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission.

Advocates from all corners of the state spoke – and spoke loudly. Our voices have been heard. A big thank you goes to all of you who have helped spread the word through your communities and to your elected officials about the importance of public arts funding in all of our lives.

Congratulations to all on a job well done.

Thank you for your support of the arts in Kansas.

That’s from Kansas Citizens for the Arts, which led what can only be termed a phenomenally successful advocacy campaign to bring arts funding back to Kansas. A campaign that forced a sitting governor to beat a very public retreat from the idea of removing the arts from government in one of the nation’s most conservative states.

The new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission represents a merger with the state’s Film Services Commission, and the combined total for the new agency is essentially the same as what the arts commission alone was working with before all the controversy. But even so, arts advocates have occasion to celebrate this year, along with Sarah Fizell and the rest of the folks at KCA. In fact, if anything, this is an even bigger win for the rest of the US than it is for Kansas. For years, conservative ideologues have been trying to kill funding for the arts at the state level, but the threat of losing matching federal funds from the NEA had always held them in check. So finally, one governor follows through and eliminates funding entirely, and he gets lambasted mercilessly for it all year and has to reverse his stance in the very next budget. What does that say to the next governor who might be thinking about following Brownback’s lead?

It says you don’t want to mess with arts funding.

  • What those in the arts should take note of, and not be so giddy about, is that the Kansas Arts Council has not been reinstated but rather replaced with a more conservative name and focus. This new name, the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, reflects what is happening in many states with a quiet shifting in emphasis from “the arts” to ” arts industries”. This is a bad thing for the arts in general because it changes the focus from the intrinsic value of art to one of it being an economic stimulator. In this new focus Art only becomes valuable when it can be measured to provide jobs or stimulate the economy in some fashion. This is not a sustainable model in which real art and artistic development can move forward in.

    • Tyler Branson

      Yes, BUT the KCAI was a collaborative effort to restore public funding for the arts in the state of Kasnas after public outcry at Brownback’s decision. It’s not a good long-term model and there are plenty of things to debate about that, but I also think it’s a bit misleading for Rep. Cockroft to say he’s merely “following in the footsteps of Kansas” when clearly he didn’t do his research and doesn’t fully understand the implications of his bill.

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