An Artist's Plea for Funding

by Ralph Hipp

From Louis Copt, Outstanding Kansas Artist, Governor's Arts Award Winner

Here's a portion of the award-winning Lecompton-Flint Hills artist's "thank you" speech he gave at Washburn University last Thursday night -- after receiving his honor from the Kansas Arts Commission.

"From the vast plains of Western Kansas to the tree-covered hills near the Missouri border, the state of the arts in our beloved state is in jeopardy.  No doubt we are in difficult times, with a sagging economy, spirit sapping unemployment and changing political fortunes.  We look to an uncertain future.

"In the short time I have to address you tonight, there is no need for me to go over the litany of losses the state would suffer if the Kansas Arts Commission loses its funding.  The dramatic drop in matching funds, the effect on jobs and the blow to small towns and tourism is well documented in the explosion of web-based communication from e-mail to Facebook.  One only has to Google the Kansas Arts Commission to find a host of information and action based response opportunities.

"During the Depression, there were many far-sighted people in government who joined with President Roosevelt to create the Federal Art Project which, in 1934, created over 5,000 jobs for artists and produced over 225,000 works of art for the American people.  Writers like Langston Hughes wrote poetry and plays.  Others compiled histories and artists painted murals in small towns throughout Kansas including Sabetha, Eureka and Goodland, plus the Curry murals in the state capitol.  All of which, would not exist today without public arts funding.

"These works of art now stand as a reminder of a time in our country's history when dreams were not allowed to be destroyed by economic disaster.

"It is within the realm of possibility to have essential service and a healthy funding for the arts.  This should not be an either/or situation.  This should be an opportunity to have a dialogue on both sides to clear a path for rational thinking, to sweep aside stereotypes and know that we can have both bread and roses.  To me, the Governor's Arts Awards is not just a recognition of an individual in the arts, but a celebration of what it means to be a human who can lift hearts and minds through creative expression.

"I am encouraged by the showing of support here tonight.  The art and culture of Kansas is indeed alive and well.

"Let us tell the nation of the art here in the Sunflower State where I was born and raised, where I was educated and where I found my artistic voice.  Let us now raise all our voices through painting, sculpture, theatre, dance, music, arts education and philanthropy to say with one clear message, that ARTS IN KANSAS MATTER."

I am so glad to donate by blog space so you could read this!   Ralph 

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