Linda Browning Weis
I want to thank the Mercury for its recognition of the new State of the Arts Kansas License Plate Program. For clarification, the project is actually not the property of the Kansas Arts Foundation Inc.; it is the exclusive property of the Kansas Arts Commission—a state agency.
The license plate project is headed by Kansas Arts Commissioner Dave Lindstrom and a KAC committee. Initiated under former Commission Executive Director Llewellyn Crain, the project was disbanded when the staff was terminated. After taking office in June, I recognized the project as a potentially positive mechanism to create funding for arts grants and appointed Commissioner Lindstrom to do a feasibility study, which has indicated positive results.
The Kansas Arts Foundation has no ownership in the Kansas Arts License Plate Project. However, the Foundation has shown active support by approving a $20,000 grant to the Commission as seed money for the project, which promises to benefit all Kansas artists and arts programs, as well as local participating arts organizations through shared revenue.
Because there has been a great deal of change during the past year, it can be difficult to keep straight the two entities — the Commission and the Foundation; however, there are critically important differences. The Commission is a government agency, regulated by state statute and responsible to the governor and the Legislature.
The nature of the Foundation is quite different, as stated in the “Resolution Confirming Independence and Support,” adopted Aug. 10, 2011:
“The Kansas Arts Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit corporation organized to foster the arts in the State of Kansas as outlined in its Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws. Included in its objects and purposes is providing grants, education and other services in support of the arts in the State of Kansas. It does not seek to be the State’s official arts agency. The Foundation is an apolitical organization unaffiliated with and unbeholden to any political office or officer, and is dedicated to building an institution that will continue to serve the arts for future generations.
“One of the missions of the Foundation is to provide grants, education and other services to the Kansas Arts Commission. While the Foundation and the Kansas Arts Commission are both supportive of the arts in Kansas, the Foundation remains independent, distinct and materially unrelated to the Kansas Arts Commission.”
The Foundation is a tax-deductible private corporation organized as a public charity (similar to the Manhattan Community Foundation). In February 2011, the governor originally named eight members to a State Arts Foundation; however, the Kansas Senate overturned his Executive Reorganization Order, which allowed the Foundation to become independent. It remains independent, with statewide membership selected by the board itself and officers elected by the board. Manhattan members include Treasurer Mark Knackendoffel, Betti O and myself.
The governor has no authority over the Foundation, nor does he or the Legislature have the power to name or appoint members.
May I add that it is a distinct personal disappointment that the very talented Jay Nelson has been unable to participate fully in his appointed role on the Kansas Arts Commission. We have longed for the professional input and advice on which his selection was based; however, the growing responsibilities of his private arts brokerage business have resulted in conflicting schedules that made him unable to attend any of our Commission meetings since the initial phone conference June 29. I had looked forward to working with Commissioner Nelson and deeply regret that I have not had that opportunity. His inability to participate is a loss to the arts programs of Manhattan and to the state.
Regarding his Dec. 22 letter to the Mercury editor, I can understand some of the differences he has had with Gov. Sam Brownback. As an appointed member of the Governor’s Military Council, I have served three governors, each with a distinctly different style. Though I have sometimes not seen eye-to-eye with the leadership, my participation has provided me the valuable opportunity to express my viewpoint in a forthright manner, where lively discussion has taken place. This is a great privilege and a serious responsibility to which I was committed and to which I was sworn under oath by the Kansas Secretary of State, as is my commitment as chairman of the Kansas Arts Commission.
Mercury readers are invited to visit www.KansasArtsFoundation.com to learn about the vision, mission and statewide representation of the Foundation. Manhattan arts lovers have a splendid opportunity to financially support local arts organizations through purchase of State of the Arts license plates, which will be presented soon at the KAC website, www.arts.ks.gov. This is a reminder that 25 percent of the proceeds will go to those local arts organizations that procure the order.
Linda Browning Weis, a Manhattan Realtor, is chairman of the Kansas Arts Commission and president of the Kansas Arts Foundation Inc.