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State is back in the business of funding the arts

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Topeka — The state of Kansas is back in the arts.

More than two years after Gov. Sam Brownback made Kansas the first state to stop funding the arts, a reconstructed arts commission awarded $58,000 to eight organizations across the state, it was announced Tuesday.

Henry Schwaller, a critic of Brownback's decision to veto arts funding in 2011, said it has been a tough climb back.

"We lost millions of dollars in the process, but at least we are starting back from scratch," Schwaller, of Hays, said.

In 2011, Brownback declared the state shouldn't be funding the arts and abolished the Kansas Arts Commisison and vetoed its funding.

The action cost Kansas $1.3 million per year in federal and regional matching dollars. Schwaller said the lack of funding hurt mostly small towns that were more dependent on assistance from the state for arts programs.

Last year, after a public outcry, Brownback and the Legislature established the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission and placed it under the Commerce Department, a Cabinet-level agency under Brownback. The Legislature approved a $700,000 budget for the current fiscal year.

The budget Brownback just signed into law, however, cuts the funding to $200,000 for the current and next fiscal years.

The new grants were awarded by the KCAIC and announced by the Brownback administration.

“The eight grant recipients demonstrated the value of supporting their projects,” Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said. “Through these grants, the KCAIC is supporting the growth of the creative arts and the Kansas economy.”

The grant recipients are:

• Arkansas City Area Arts Council; $10,000 to provide space for two businesses that will be used for arts classes and exhibits.

• Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plain; $10,000 to renovate an 1879 depot.

• The Culture House in Olathe; $10,000 to develop a theater space.

• Hutchinson Theatre Guild; $10,000 for renovation of a theater.

• Chamber Music at the Barn, Maize; $5,000 for new sound equipment.

• Kansas Alliance for the Arts in Education; $5,000, to integrate arts into Common Core curriculum;

• Image Makers, Wamego; $4,000 to hire a photographer.

• Fisch Haus, Wichita; $4,000 to make the gallery more accessible.

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