Monday, August 01, 2011

Rural states will be hurt the most with arts cutbacks


From today's article, "Arts outposts stung by cuts in state aid," in the New York Times:
...much of America’s artistic activity does not happen in major recital halls and theaters; instead it occurs in places like Lucas [KS], population 407, where the cultural attractions include S. P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden historic folk art site and where smaller arts organizations are highly dependent on state grants. 
This is also true in Wyoming. The big differences between Wyoming and Kansas?

Well, Wyoming has a population of 550,000 while Kansas tips the people scale at 2,853,000 -- about five times the Equality State count.

Kansas is flat while Wyoming is anything but. Wyoming is more white than Kansas -- 91 percent to 83 percent. Way above the 50-state average of 72 percent.

One other thing. Wyoming funds the arts a lot better than does Kansas.

Wyoming Arts Council budget: $2.1 million ($1.3 million from the state legislature)

Kansas Arts Commission budget: zero.

Why the difference. Well, the Know Nothings on the Radical Christian Right have a firmer hold on Kansas than on Wyoming. Yes, we have kooky Tea Party types in our legislature. This most recent legislative session told us that. But we can't hold a candle to Kansas.

As do most states, Kansas has a split personality. You have your city liberals and your rural conservatives. But worse -- the state's southern half is part of the Bible Belt. Not only are they conservative. They're bat-shit crazy as is the case with so many on the literalist Radical Christian Right. Remember the battles over evolution (science) vs. creationism in the curriculum.

No Bible Belt in Wyoming. O.K., we have the LDS influence in southwest Wyoming. The most radical Right of the 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidates was Ron Micheli from Uinta County. He's indicative of the very conservative leanings of the state's LDS population.

Here's an irony for you though. Our neighbor Utah, home of the international LDS conglomerate, has the nation's oldest state arts agency, established in 1899. Wonderful ballet and symphony and arts education programs in the Beehive State. But most of the politics is conservative, even reactionary. State firearm anyone?

Wyoming, as a rule, has a live-and-let-live attitude. Not always -- Judy Shepard, Matt's mom, could attest to that. When conflicts arise over art and the funding of art, the battle can get pretty brutal. The Grand Poobahs of the state's oil and gas industry were none too pleased recently with Chris Drury's public installation at UW. Entitled "What Goes Around Comes Around," it illustrates the link between the burning of coal and forest pine beetle infestations caused by global warming. The controversy over the work began with an incendiary piece in the Casper Star-Tribune, raged around the blogs for a day or two, and then died. Perhaps our state's leaders were away fishing in the Wind Rivers or wrapped up in Cheyenne Frontier Days. The fooferaw died out and now Drury's sculpture is drawing lots of visitors.

The biodegradable piece, part of the UW Art Museum's outdoor sculpture project, was partially funded by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund.

During these crazy times, Wyoming will not be immune from Radical Right attacks on art and arts funding. All gubment programs and all creativity will come under attack from these Know Nothings.

This leaves me with one final question: WTF is wrong with Kansas? With a little editing, this could be a book title.

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