Kansas Becomes First State Without Arts Agency

Posted by Tim Mikulski, May 28, 2011 17 comments

Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Commission today (May 28), thereby ending a scuffle with the legislature, which funded the commission over his objections.

According to the Associated Press, Gov. Brownback said:

"The arts will continue to thrive in Kansas when funded by private donations, and I intend to personally involve myself in efforts to make this happen."

In light of this action, the following statement has been released by Americans for the Arts President & CEO Robert Lynch:

Americans for the Arts is disappointed with Governor Sam Brownback’s decision to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission (KAC) by vetoing the legislative branch’s budget for the agency. His action not only robs the citizens of his state of access to quality arts programming, but is also a direct affront to his campaign platform to create jobs and rebuild the state’s economy. Kansas now holds the dubious distinction of being the only state without a functioning state agency in charge of promoting the arts and culture.  

During the KAC’s 45-year history, Kansas’ nonprofit arts and culture sector has become a booming industry—one that generates $153.5 million annually in direct statewide economic activity. This spending–$80.3 million by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and an additional $73.2 million in event-related spending by their audiences–supports 4,612 full-time equivalent jobs, generates $95.1 million in household income to local residents, and delivers $15.6 million in local and state government revenue. With modest grants to non-profit arts groups, the KAC has been the driving force in establishing arts and cultural organizations in many of Kansas’ most rural communities, providing ALL citizens, not just those in large urban areas, with access to quality artistic experiences.

Further, the KAC received a matching grant of $778,200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2011 to support Kansas jobs, artists and cultural groups. That funding is now lost for 2012 with the elimination of the KAC, the only agency in Kansas that is eligible for the NEA’s matching grants. Kansas also loses the $437,767 the KAC brought in from its regional partner, the Mid-America Arts Alliance. This $1.2 million funding shortfall far exceeds the $689,000 KAC appropriation recommended by the Kansas legislature during budget negotiations.

We at Americans for the Arts understand that times are tough, and governors across the country are facing hard budget decisions. We further recognize that the arts will have to do their part to ensure state governments are able to make ends meet. So while some cuts to arts funding are expected, they should be proportional to those of other government services. We all have to do our part. The arts alone should not be sacrificed as they have been in Kansas as the total elimination of the KAC does not substantially solve Kansas’s budget deficit but rather removes $1.2 million in federal money from Kansas’ economy—money that will now go to other states.

More than 30 years ago, I was inspired by the arts and arts leadership in Kansas when I attended my first national meeting of locally based arts leaders held that year in Wichita. Today, as legislative sessions across the country wrap up, we hope that lawmakers in other states are inspired by the actions of the Kansas legislature—not those of Governor Brownback—to make their budget decisions. Since the governor issued an executive reorganization order to effectively eliminate the KAC, Kansas citizens have sent 5,000 letters, emails and telephone calls urging their representatives to support arts funding. As a result, both the Kansas Senate and House presented a budget bill to the Governor which invested state funds in the KAC for the next fiscal year. They heard the voices of Kansans, and they responded. We at Americans for the Arts applaud the Kansas legislature for listening to the wishes of their constituents.

But now, with Governor Brownback’s veto, the KAC is abolished. While the arts community mourns the loss of this vital institution, it is ultimately the citizens of Kansas that suffer. For a mere 0.005% of the state's $13.8 billion budget, Governor Brownback could have preserved the arts and the financial benefits they provide flowing to Kansas communities, especially those rural communities, which need every possible economic asset available in these difficult times.

17 responses for Kansas Becomes First State Without Arts Agency


May 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Well put, Mr. Lynch

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Joseph Futral says
May 31, 2011 at 1:51 pm

edit: "I truly believe the powers that be are only doing what they think is best."


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May 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Ok Orchote, that's enough. I am always up for thoughtful debate, but calling us morons simply won't do. Let's be smarter than that.

What you will find in Kansas are people who are creative- there was a recent study that found that Kansas is the state with the largest percentage of their population who are involved in the creation of art. That's right- as a percentage, there are more people who create than in places that might be considered more cultured. It is true that it is different- our symphonies and our museums are smaller- but the music they make, the work that they exhibit and the productions that our theatres present are of quality and meaning that would rival anything found anywhere in the country.

Do we know that this is just another reason for uninformed people to consider us backward? Yep. But we are smart, we work very hard, and while it will take time to pull ourselves up we will. So how did this happen? It is complicated, and it didn't happen without a very big fight.

Orchote- I have a couple of extra tickets to the Symphony in the Flint Hills which I would like to offer to you. Because when the symphony starts to play, as the sun is setting over the amazing Flint Hills and the cowboys descend over the crest, you will know that this is our culture, and it might not be like your culture, but it is ours, and it is real, and it is a part of America. And we are very proud of it.

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Laura Brown says
May 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm

That is a good thing. If art wants to be an independent voice, it should stand on its own. I am a mother of an artist. I expect him to stand on his own.

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Llewellyn Crain says
May 28, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Thank, you, Bob and Tim, for your article. This is a sad day for Kansas and for the rest of the nation. The small investment in the arts by Kansans ( less than $0.29 per capita in 2011) meant that arts organizations and artists received not just federal and state funds, but professional and business development programs, strengthening their abilities to serve their communities and provide jobs and vital arts eduction programs. It is a tremendous loss for a largely rural state. The action by Governor Brownback demonstrates that he simply does not understand the nature of the arts in Kansas. The arts here are grassroots, community-based and largely driven by volunteers who do what they can to raise funds, provide programming and education to their communities. The arts in Kansas are hardly elitist, avant-garde or for weathy people. Arfs advocates from across political lines banded together to save the Kansas Arts Commission. While they weren't successful in the short-run, they will be successful in the end. As the former executive director of the Kansas Arts Commission who now works for a Missouri arts organization that receives funding from the Missouri Arts Council, I can personally attest to the incredible value of public arts funding in making it possible for arts organizations to succeed. I ask the mother of the artist above to ask herself where her son trained. Did the organizations and schools he attended receive public funding? I bet they did. Do the organizations who show his work receive public funding? I am sure of it.

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May 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm

No, thank you for fighting the good fight in two states now!

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Jason says
May 28, 2011 at 9:53 pm

In response to Laura... KAC did not subsides individual artists. KAC helped fund arts programs across the state, in large cities and small towns, programs designed for children and adults. This is not an issue of independent voices (which the arts will continue to have with or without the KAC)... this is an issue of Kansans having any chance of hearing them.

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Miguel Rivera says
May 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm

At the end of the day The Kansas Governor will be perceived as a representative of a "backwards" state with no intrinsic philosophical and cultural values towards its population. Remember intelligent design and evolution denial in elementary education? Who elected this person anyway?

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Joseph Futral says
May 31, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I do not buy into the false dichotomy that because a state agency has been eliminated that no one in Kansas believes that the arts are an investment worth making and that this list of ventures you cite will cease to exist. This thinking, to me, does not point to any inherent value to the arts, only value to the system. It says the arts do not exist without the system. The system is more important than what it purports to support.

So now we have a state where necessity will become the mother of invention. When has that ever been a bad thing? Do I know what THE answer is? If I did, I would be much further along my own process than I am now. Maybe there is no 'THE' answer anyway. Kansas is now in a position to become a leader and forge a new model that EVERYONE ELSE can follow.

The ideas that MANY of the articles ON THIS BLOG have presented are great places to start. Now there is an environment where these ideas have a real chance at an honest trial, sink or swim (again, for the business model, not the arts. The arts will never sink. Art is too much a part of human nature to become extinct).

I believe the governor when he says "I intend to personally involve myself in efforts to make this happen.” And if I lived and voted in Kansas I would hold him to it. This is an opportunity for leaders to lead. And for every leader who doesn't, take action to replace them.

But your thinking in your reaction to me is paramount. Sit down and REALLY, THOROUGHLY assess what has been lost. No knee jerk reaction, no ad hominem attacks. No solutions were ever found in such antics, only more problems.

I've never lived in Kansas, I've only toured through a couple of times. But I can't believe that this is an overnight occurrence. I truly don't believe the powers that be are only doing what they think is best. When is that wrong? If this has been a trend, issues to the programs you cite have developed long before now. And if solutions, temporary or otherwise, have evolved, that would be a good place to start, too. I can't believe that the arts community leaders in Kansas have not seen this coming for a while now and that they do not have at least theories on how to deal with it.

If the arts are REALLY what's important, then solutions and new systems (if needed) are worth finding.

Or we can wallow in defeat and self pity, and go home and eat worms.


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May 31, 2011 at 12:17 pm

OK, Joe, what is the extraordinary opportunity? Do you see a way to replace this funding with earned revenue or other revenue? I'm open to other ways of doing business, what would they be?

State arts funding is rarely, if ever, a major support for arts and culture organizations. But it is an important one - for recognition of the value of arts and culture in the state, to have the arts agency to connect the work of diverse organizations towards common goals, to fund specific projects with seed funding that later leverages much larger gifts, and to reach out to underserved constituents so that everyone in the state reaps the benefits of arts and culture, not just those who can pay for it out of their own pocket. Eliminating the Kansas Arts Commission doesn't save much money - but it does show that government turns its back on this vital part of education and community attractiveness. Arts and culture brings people together, increases social capital and civility. Isn't that an investment worth keeping?

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Joseph Futral says
May 31, 2011 at 11:03 am

Really? Ad hominem attacks are all we have left in our arsenal? If that is all I got from people I _give_ money to, I would stop giving them money, too.

The era of the "unwashed masses who don't get REAL art" is gone. If that is where we are stuck, then we deserve to whither and die (and by "we" I mean our business model, because art will always exist, you can't un-fund an intrinsic human quality).


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Orchote says
May 31, 2011 at 10:52 am

The least surprising thing of all time that uncultured morons like those who run and live in Kansas would be the first to make this mistake.

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Joseph Futral says
May 31, 2011 at 10:40 am

I find this kind of amazing. First a few disclaimers:

Do I think there is a need and a place for public funding of arts projects? Yes. I think this is as much a leadership issue as it is actual dollars.

Do I think ANY government budget is going to balance their fiscal responsibility on the backs of this funding? No. The amount is too small and it doesn't address more fundamental issues regarding government expenditures. I personally hate it when I hear a politician use the same go to arguments in public—"We have to pay for police, fire, trash, and schools". I mean, really. If I looked at the budget, I would really see these plus arts funding are the _only_ expense items? Give me a break.

But how can a blog that continually posts articles about new business models, breaking from the status quo, how to identify and fix what is broken, changing minds, etc., and not see this as an extraordinary opportunity?

Oh, well. So much for that idea.


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June 08, 2011 at 9:43 am
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Sue Obrien says
June 04, 2011 at 8:54 am

If we take insults and politics out of this we may make some headway. This truly is an opportunity for Kansas out of necessity and who better to lead this than those vested creatives with a cause?
I imagine the public will demand more of what it already values, while the rest of us observe and support Kansas as it leads the country in structuring a business model which serves the talent and invested public.

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Mcneal says
January 31, 2012 at 12:52 am

This is truly a shame, it appears the value of art has diminished significantly in the eyes of the Kansas state government. This thought can be applied to the national government as well but that is another subject. There was no statistical data to conclude that the public will provide enough money to sustain the amount needed to have a health art scene. To put it bluntly, the governors' statement reads as a cop-out and a way to provide a means of avoiding any type of blame. The fact is that the public alone cannot close the tremendous hole left by the Kansas state government pulling out funding. The people who the Kansas government seem to think are going to donate money, more than likely, already are. What is really being asked is if they can donate more because the state government do not see the arts as crucial to the state. It would be a shame for all of America if more states took on such a nonchalant attitude about the affects of the arts.

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Rachel Broghammer says
April 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I am surprised that this is the first that I have heard about this. As an educator I can't hlp but ask the question "What is this teaching out children about the arts and it's importance in the eyes of others" It's given them a poor perspective before they are even given a chance to form thier own. I agree with Mr. Lynch that times are tough and budgets and cuts need to be taken into consideration at this time, but a mere 0.005% of the budget seems to be nothing. I feel that if Kansas is the only state doing this, they need to take a look into how the other states incorporate the arts and find ways to keep it within thier community, and take note.

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