Participants sketch out art plan
By DAWNE LEIKER
In a Hays meeting comprised of nearly as many facilitators as participants, public input for a strategic plan for the new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission was sketched out with magic markers Friday evening.
Prompted by two facilitators and assisted by two other individuals from Kansas State University's Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy, the half dozen attendees mapped out arts-enhancing ideas for the KCAIC during the fifth of seven such public input sessions throughout the state.
Peter Jasso, KCAIC director, and Henry Schwaller IV, KCAIC board member, primarily attended the meeting as observers, although Schwaller provided some input during the evening.
"The arts council has a void," Schwaller said. "The university used to get grants from the NEA, and we get no funding for the Encore Series or the Mid-America Arts Alliance because of no matching funds."
Governmental support, he said, wouldn't necessarily have to be in the form of money but rather in professional development programs.
Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development Executive Director Aaron White added to that idea and pointed out the state needs a "serious education on what drives the economies of small communities."
As the state has changed the way it assists businesses the last few years, White said there has been a shift.
"They've canceled several programs at the state level, and those programs that they cancelled more greatly impacted small communities, particularly communities of 3,000 or less," he said.
Lack of funding for the arts was a recurring theme from attendees, along with the special concerns of rural western Kansans in attracting new residents and businesses to the area that has seen decades of population loss.
After participants condensed their collective goals for KCAIC and cast sticker votes for their favorites, networking emerged as the top vote-getter. The meeting itself, some attendees agreed, provided an opportunity for networking.
Craig Manteuffel, director of bands for Hays High School, said he appreciated having an economic development director at the meeting as he had direct experience with the benefit a strong arts program can provide for recruiting professionals to relocate to Hays.
White said arts and arts education sometimes can be an overlooked component of recruitment.
"Large communities tend to assume quantity is better than quality," White said. "Small communities don't have the quantity, so they have to make sure that the quality they provide is first rate."
For Stacy Barnes of Greensburg, professional development opportunities, networking and conferences are a few suggestions she wanted to pass on to KCAIC.
"It would be nice if we could all just get a check, but that's not going to happen," she said.
Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Commission in 2011. The Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, which operates under the Kansas Department of Commerce, was created to replace the KAC.
Suggestions that have emerged from other KCAIC meetings in the state this week have been interesting, Jasso said following the Hays session.
"Each group has its own dynamic," he said. "There are definitely similar themes.
"Networking and marketing have been constant themes."