Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What I've learned since Topeka

It never fails that before an article is even published, some of the information becomes questionable or out-of-date.
While giving a TIAK report to the members of the South Central Kansas Tourism Region last week I mentioned what was discussed at the TIAK Day on the Hill. All reports then indicated that the governor's decision to dissolve the arts commission would not jeopardize federal funding for the arts in Kansas.
In a release from Governor Sam Brownback's office he stated "As a state agency, the historical society will be eligible to receive federal matching funds for the purpose of advancing the arts in the State of Kansas."
It was this statement that made me think arts would not suffer from a loss of funding and perhaps a private non-profit was a viable option much like the Humanities Council.
It was brought to my attention by Christine Downey Schmidt that this is not necessarily the case.
Here is a summary of what the National Endowment for the Arts had to say in response to Gov. Brownback's ERO.

The National Endowment for the Arts’ investment in a state is predicated on a significant financial and programmatic commitment from state government to its arts council. In each case, state and federal funds are combined to support local programs and priorities. The National Endowment for the Arts stated in an email to the Kansas Legislative Research Department on February 14, 2011:
Federal Match
· Kansas may forfeit its ability to receive federal funding depending on how the new entity is structured and how this restructure addresses the NEA requirements for a fully functioning state arts agency.
· The funds utilized for the 1:1 match to the NEA Partnership Agreement must be directly controlled and managed by the state and may include state appropriated, donated or trust funds.
· If the state does not provide state controlled funds for support of the state arts agency, all federal funds are at risk.
Kansas Arts Foundation / Kansas Historical Society
· It is unclear which agency, the Kansas Historical Society or the 501(c3), is controlling the funds.
It is unclear as to who will be the applicant to the NEA and who will be responsible for performing the responsibilities of the NEA Partnership Agreement; the Kansas Historical Society or the Kansas Arts Foundation.
· Continued federal investment is contingent on the State of Kansas providing financial support to its designated state arts agency. The agency must have the capacity to carry out the significant responsibilities of the NEA Partnership Agreement, including:
· The implementation of an NEA-approved state arts plan, developed as a result of a comprehensive and inclusive planning process that addresses the state’s cultural priorities and those of the NEA, as stipulated in the Endowment’s strategic plan.
· Fair funding decisions based on criteria that take into account artistic excellence and merit, as determined primarily through a panel process.
· Maintenance of sound fiscal and administrative procedures.
· Demonstration of leadership in arts education and in strategies for making the arts available and accessible to those in underserved communities throughout the state.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, currently provides $778,200 in funding to the KansasArts Commission, a state agency, for grants, programs and services to artists and organizations of Kansas.

If nothing else this outlines some criteria for how the new arts council should be structured, funded and administered and I, for one, would like to see some reassurances from the governor's office on these points.

What I learned in Topeka

Last week I attended two days of meetings as part of the Tourism Industry Association of Kansas’ Day on the Hill. I don’t know what it is about politics, but I find it fascinating. Maybe it’s the implied power of being a lawmaker or the historic statehouse with its five floors of marble and ornate woodwork. I don’t know but it sure was a rush.
Our group heard from Parks and Wildlife Secretary Robin Jennison about the recent addition of Tourism to his department. Sec. Jennison is a big outdoorsman and hosted a radio show all about the outdoors for four years. This new alignment of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will put more of an emphasis on our outdoor recreation when marketing the Sunflower State. While a few larger metros have expressed some concern their attractions will get overlooked, the consensus by Director Becky Blake and those in the industry is that it is a good move. I myself like the switch but I’m a little confused as to why it was necessary to add a third undersecretary to the department if the Governor’s ideology has always been one of smaller government.
The other major issue discussed was the executive reorganization order to eliminate the Arts Commission and make it a non-profit funded by private donors. The state is facing a $500 million shortfall and comparatively the Arts Commission $592,000 budget is just a drop in the bucket.
Arts supporters are concerned the loss of state agency status will mean a loss in federal arts funding but the Historical Society is able to accept federal funds and funnel them on to a private Arts Council. There is also concern that not having a state agency dedicated to the arts will give the stigma that Kansas is not arts-friendly.
My two cents are that this is not a necessary action by Governor Brownback. On the other hand, if arts supporters truly believe in supporting the arts, hopefully they will support it with their wallets when necessary.
By far the best meeting I had in Topeka was the time I spent with Rep. Clark Shultz talking about McPherson. I’m hoping he will support some kind of resolution to make McPherson the Olympic Basketball Capital of Kansas in time for the 75th anniversary of the Globe Refiners 1936 Olympic victory in August. If you agree, mention it the next time you see Rep. Shultz, Sen. Jay Emler or Rep. Don Schroeder. Or just thank them for all of their hard work.