Reforms initiated by Gov. Sam Brownback to the state agency overseeing the creative arts in Kansas has resulted in improved support for programs statewide.
The changes were part of the governor’s focus on resetting the state’s priorities and focusing on core functions of government.
Connie McClean, vice chairwoman of the commission, said the changes made in the structure and mission of the arts program put Kansas, including right-sizing staffing, has put the state’s arts agency “in step with the economy and where the Legislature is.”
“I’m pretty darn proud of what we’ve done,” McClean said.
For example, in fiscal year 2014, the Kansas Creative Arts Industry Commission, a unit within the Kansas Department of Commerce, had a budget of $1,153,852. Of that amount, $141,685 was used to operate KCAIC, including $87,802 for salary and benefits for one staff person.
All funding under the CAIC has been granted based on a competitive application and review process that requires organizations to demonstrate the impact the funding will have on their organization and community.
“Every time a proposal comes, we look at it and ask ourselves is this creating an economic opportunity for the community and would this go on without us,” McClean said. “We look at it more carefully. I think it’s definitely making more of an impact.”
An element of those changes was restructuring the state’s support of the creative arts industries which has resulted in an increase of funding that gets directly to programs across Kansas to support artists, programs and the state’s cultural heritage.
KCAIC Commissioner Bill Coulter said the National Endowment for The Arts and the Mid-America Arts Alliance has reinstated Kansas, which allow the state to receive matching funds.
“The heartbeat of KCAIC is strong and well,” Coulter said.
KCAIC awarded more than $1 million in state and matching National Endowment for the Arts grant money. One hundred percent of the grant funds were awarded based on new programs created to emphasize economic and community development. None of the funds were awarded for general operating support of arts organizations. Grants were awarded through a competitive process based on the impact the funds have on organizations and communities.
Recent grants include:
• Sunflower RC&D Area, Inc., Harper $10,000. Sunflower RC&D, in conjunction with the Bartlett Arboretum, will renovate a recently acquired 1879 depot. The renovations will include a performance-workshop retreat, exhibition space, a catering kitchen, a shower and sleeping quarters for resident artists.
• Chamber Music at the Barn, Maize, $5,000. Chamber Music at the Barn will purchase and install upgrades to its audio visual system to enhance the experience for audience members. Chamber Music at the Barn will also upgrade its ticketing service at the gate.
• Fisch Haus, Wichita, $4,400. Fisch Bowl Inc. will purchase and install storage for a manually operated portable wheelchair lifts to make the Fisch Haus gallery and performance space more accessible.
• Bethany College, Lindsborg, $3,000. The Principal Musicians of the Bethany Oratorio Society Orchestra will spearhead a brand-new String Apprenticeship Program. This Apprenticeship Program will grant four high school age string players the second-chair seat next to renowned Principal Musicians, in a mentoring and one-on-one educational environment, in the Bethany Oratorio Society Orchestra for the Easter Sunday performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”
“Through the investments that the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission have made, we have seen a greater impact from our investments in collaborative community events, assisting artists in developing their businesses, and enhancing educational opportunities of art in the schools,” said commission member Lana Gordon. “This not only adds value to the economy of our state, but also to the quality of life for all Kansans.”