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I’m resigning because Gov. Brownback’s goal is to censor the arts in Kansas

By Letters to the Editor

To The Editor:

This is an open letter to the Kansas Arts Foundation.

It is with regret that I must resign as a Kansas Arts commissioner.  My primary reason for doing so is because by staying on the commission it is assumed that I agree with the goals of Kansas Arts Foundation and support it financially and philosophically. I cannot in good conscience recommend to anyone that they donate to the Kansas Arts Foundation.

I do not in any way support the Kansas Arts Foundation.  It was created by the governor against the votes of his own majority party in the legislature, despite a significant public opposition, and without regard for the longstanding record of sound management by the Kansas Arts Commission.  Although Governor Brownback framed his argument for disbanding the commission in budgetary terms, it has become obvious that is not his real motivation.  I believe his motivation to be entirely ideological.  His voting record and public statements show that he has always resolutely opposed the National Endowment for the Arts, National Public Radio, and Public Broadcasting.  To prove my supposition about his motivations, Gov. Brownback just recently found $1 million in the budget to subsidize public access to private ponds and streams for fishing…but couldn’t justify around $750,000 to support the arts across the state and make Kansas eligible to receive matching funds of almost $1.2 million.

My belief is that Sam Brownback is still fighting the “cultural wars” of the 1980s and the private money raised by the Kansas Arts Foundation agency he appointed, and therefore whose agenda he directs, can be used as a tool of censorship and favoritism.  On the Kansas Arts Commission we granted monies based on the demonstrable budgetary needs of the independent agency (such as our local Manhattan Arts Center or the Beach Museum) and how well they demonstrated the judicious, and quantifiable, use of such funds.  Grants never hinged on content and were distributed throughout the state to agencies and individuals.

Also it seems impractical and unlikely that the Kansas Arts Foundation can raise the $20 million it would reasonably need to establish an endowment that would provide an annual funding of $2 million, which was about last year’s reduced state funding for the Kansas Arts Commission.

So what to do about the lack of funding for the arts in Kansas?  Give your donations to the Kansas Citizens for the Arts, support your local arts centers directly, become a friend of the Beach Museum (or your local equivalent) and, most importantly, make sure that the people you vote for in the next election do support public funding for the arts. 
Jay Nelson
Strecker-Nelson Gallery, Manhattan

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