Friday, February 4, 2011

A letter in support of the Kansas Arts Commission

Art advocates from across the state have done an excellent job warning us about the potential loss in tourism dollars and arts-related jobs that Kansas would suffer if the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission were approved. I agree with their dire assessment and believe that these arguments alone should be enough to convince our legislators to put the breaks on this misguided proposal.

But there is another case to be made if we really want to understand why art is integral to our communities, state, and nation. We need to support art (at least at the current yearly rate of .29 cents per person) because art is the discipline engaged in exploring the language of stories - stories of where we have been, who we are, and how we want to be remembered. This work, this research and experimentation into those qualities that make us human and humane, is essential to the growth and maintenance of a healthy democratic society. And like science, art needs public support precisely because its benefits accrue slowly, cannot be easily quantified, and are absolutely necessary.

Theater, music, film, dance, poetry, painting. Artists young and old working in these media are at the forefront of shaping our shared identity as Kansans. Support for the Kansas Arts Commission, which gives all of us access to this creative world, is essential because, as Topeka born poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote in a poem from 1970, “ We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

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