Penny wise and pound foolish: without an arts commission, Kansas loses federal NEA money. Could Texas be next?

by Bill Davenport August 19, 2011

Kansas governor Sam Brownback vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Commission recently, substituting a non-governmental foundation he hoped would be able to distribute Kansas’ share National Endowment for the Arts money. Wrong. The NEA said that the estimated $1.2 million the state typically gets will not be disbursed next October without a state agency to oversee it. Steadfast in his resolve to forego federal grants, Brownback said Wednesday that private money is being raised for the arts in Kansas, but it will take some time.

Partly it’s a budget crunch issue, partly culture wars that set often-misunderstood avant-guardists against the mainstream, and partly a sympathy with the wider “nullify now” theme in the Republican right wing that would eliminate government oversight for aviation safety (FAA), policing wall street (SEC), as well as the arts; no matter how you stir it, a dangerous cocktail for cultural funding.

On the (comparatively) bright side: earlier this month, The Texas Commission for the Arts survived just such a battle, with Governor (now presidential candidate!) Rick Perry proposing, “Let’s suspend non-mission-critical entities like the historical commission or the commission on the arts until the economy improves,” at his February 8 State of the State address. Legislators ended up stripping away half the TCA’s budget, but the bare-bones entity that’s left can still serve as a conduit for federal arts money.


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