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Celebrate Kansas' 150 Anniversary by Closing Down the Arts

By Vickie Stangl
Opinion | January 31, 2011

symphony-children.jpgTOPEKA, Kan. - When Oliver Cromwell finally defeated Charles I of England in 1649, Cromwell ushered in a Puritan state. All theaters of the realm were closed, and Cromwell banned any gaming, card playing, or sports because he viewed them as immoral and a distraction from the important task of contemplating God. The people were to focus on leading a pure life to make their way to heaven.

The people quickly discovered just how bland, boring and unsatisfying a life without the arts were, and at the end of Cromwell's rule, the public was more than ready to restore the Stuart Monarchy and enjoy the theater again.

In the spirit of Oliver Cromwell, Governor Brownback has decided the arts are expendable in a time of state budget concerns. I can't help but wonder if behind this cost savings measure there isn't another motive. After all, the arts are infamous for promoting randy and immoral lifestyles as well as indoctrinating the public with dangerous liberal ideas therefore, how convenient to call for cutting the arts to save the Kansas budget.

As many editorials and letters have already stated, this move to cut the arts has serious ramifications for the state's economic well being. Brownback has called for cutting 1.6 million in state funding for public radio and TV as well as privatizing the arts by cutting the Kansas Arts Commission's state funding from $815.000 to $200.000 to help the commission flip from being a public organization to a not-for-profit organization.

arts-children-classroom.jpgKansas also stands to achieve another first. If Brownback eliminates the Kansas Arts Commission, Kansas becomes the first state in the nation to abolish quasi-government support for the arts. Brownback's plan has the additional snowball of affect of disqualifying the state of Kansas access to federal matching funds of $778.300 as well as jeopardizing money from the multi-state organization called the Mid-America Alliance that amounts to $437,000.

We all know what this means. The arts will have to scrape for every dollar among private donors and those dollars are shrinking fast as more and more organizations are hitting up the same people who have limited dollars and resources in these difficult times. The arts in Kansas may shrink to the point that we will be asking our local neighborhood associations to put plays together for the community or hosting galleries of our children's precious art since crayons and notebook paper may be the only thing affordable left to promote the arts in Kansas.

If every Kansan would send twenty-five cents to Governor Brownback, that's about how much it costs per taxpayer to keep the arts funded in Kansas. I think the citizens are more than ready to even pay a small tax increase if it will save our schools, our social services and yes, the arts. Everyone is more than able to understand a few more dollars from our own personal accounts is worth every penny if it saves the very programs that make such a difference in the quality of our lives as Kansans.


5 Comments

"After all, the arts are infamous for promoting randy and immoral lifestyles as well as indoctrinating the public with dangerous liberal ideas therefore, how convenient to call for cutting the arts to save the Kansas budget." Is that because the 'moral' folks don't contribute artistic works depicting their lifestyle?

This old farm boy has never been overwhelmed with interest in the artistic world. I am well aware of the cultural aspect of what motivates our individual expression of what we see and value in life. When we look back in history we find a direct correlation of artistic expression and the reality of life.

I've listened to the arguments and complaints from both sides of the aisle on what is appropriate and what isn't appropriate. The religious, especially Christian, have claimed that the public funding promotes anti religious and immoral expression. The non religious side argue that the religious, especially the Christians, are prudish and bigoted, thus they don't want a true reflection of humanity. The end result is that neither side has the freedom of expression that allows everyone to appreciate artistic expression.

The most unfortunate part of the argument surfaces when we begin to measure artistic value in dollars and cents. Stewardship of economic resources does not have to be all or nothing. Across the board cuts is not the answer. Neither is slashing programs that don't necessarily make profit or even totally fund themselves, the answer.

I am of the Christian faith, so naturally I'm more drawn toward Christian theme and content. But, we are not the only ones deserving of having our preferences met. The only restrictions that public censure should make is demanding respect for others.


Religion has promoted and supported some of the most awe inspiring art the world has seen. Extremism even in art does not define the majority.


Vicki,

Sometimes in lean economic times certain programs might need to be cut. It might well have nothing to do with religion but be just pure economics.

The one piece of art I wish they would fund would be a big banner over the front of the statehouse saying "Does it create jobs?". That way whenever the state government gets an idea and they must look at it and answer that question.

Does art create jobs or economic growth? Yes, it can. Examples are like that big Van Gogh (Goodland I think?)where tourists traveling I70 stop and to see it. Two others would be the tallgrass symphony concert or the Winfield Bluegrass festival which attract many out of state visitors.

So if people want those funds they need to justify it in economic terms. Although frankly I dont think public radio and tv would qualify and might still need to be cut.

Maybe in better times arts could be funded more but until we get some growth, I think we will be seeing even more cuts.


Vickie--I've been the recipient in a small way of the good work of the Kansas Arts Council, having won prizes twice for my poetry in the Kansas Voices contest. Just having the contest and others like it a boon for those of us who never expect to make a lot of money out of what we do. I see the defunding of the arts as penny wise and pound foolish. I didn't think of it as being analogous to Cromwell's Puritanical slashing of all arts during his rule, but I can see the relationship.

I sent two quarters to Brownback, one for me and one for my husband. Even my granddaughter, a college freshman majoring in creative writing, got involved by writing to her representative.

As for public broadcasting, that and C-SPAN are the only unbiased sources of news available to those of us who don't waste our time cable news. In fact, it's so unbiased, I often write to the producers asking why they don't use as many sound bites from Democrats as they do from Republicans.

The Winfield festival is self-supporting, as far as I know, but it is certainly a good example of the arts that flourish in this state. I've worked there for the last thirty-seven years of the thirty-nine years it's been in existence and I plan to work there for the 40th year in September.

Maybe the Koch's will kick some of their fortune in to support the arts. The downside to that, of course, is that artists and poets would have to abide by their rules. Not a good idea.

I wish Brownback would concentrate on job creation, as he promised he would do, instead of doing his best to kill what's good about Kansas as he makes his way to another presidential bid.

Once again, I have to thank you for writing, Vickie.

Diane


Great article, saying what must be said about the outrageous cuts that amount to huge transferences of wealth from the working people to the already filthy rich sector. The only rational way to talk about the current right wing agenda of cutting all the programs that really "promote the general welfare," as the Constitution prescribes, is to put everything on the table and see where the money is really going. Governor Walker gave a huge tax break to businesses in January to create most of the deficit he then decided to fix by taking it out of the hide of working people. When you see the trillions that go into corrupt defense contracts for phony wars, and look at the tons of corporate welfare and note that massively profitable corporations like Exxon and Bank of America successfully avoid paying taxes, then most of the arguments of the Republicans fall into ridiculousness. Our politicians are bought by big corporate interests like the Koch brothers, and they are selling us down the river.


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