OKLAHOMA CITY — — More than 40 arts and cultural organizations from across Oklahoma will host exhibits in the state capitol on Monday, April 30, in an effort to show support for the Oklahoma Arts Council and arts funding.
Helping Lawmakers Make Good Decisions About the Arts
From the Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra and the Lawton Arts and Humanities Council to Red Earth and the Tulsa Ballet, arts advocates will be present from every corner of the state to advocate for arts and culture. In addition to providing information to legislators so they can make good decisions about arts funding, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic will host a string quartet.
The popular ArtMoves program sponsored by the Oklahoma City Arts Council will also sponsor live performances and Visual MPact will provide a demonstration of a mural painting. The Oklahoma Museum Association will host a painting station and distribute small canvasses to legislators and their assistants so they can create an original work of art to share with their families. Other arts organizations will have table displays that include videos of live performances; edible treats and handouts.
Red Earth's annual advocacy day will occur in tandem with Arts Day at the Capitol. They will host a news conference at 1:30 p.m., and Native American dancers will fill the marble halls.
Oklahoma Arts Council
According to Jennifer James, Director of Oklahomans for the Arts, an arts advocacy organization that was launched a year ago, more than 80 percent of the Oklahoma Arts Council's appropriation is returned to Oklahoma communities every year through matching grants to arts organizations and schools. The remaining 20 percent is invested in programs that advance Oklahoma art and culture industry. This includes the popular Leadership Arts program, an intensive training and education program that is equipping local arts leaders for competition and innovation.
"It has never been more important for citizens to advocate for arts funding," James said. "Last year, the Oklahoma Arts Council was among the top agencies targeted for the greatest percentage of cuts even though when compared to most large, state agency budgets, their funding could equate to a rounding error.
"Why cut funds to an agency that has documented through independent research a return on investment? Every dollar of public funding for the arts generates $8 in economic activity."
What Happens in Kansas Stays in Kansas
Still, the $4 million the Oklahoma Arts Council received last year had an enormous impact on Oklahoma communities. Arts advocates contend that cutting it will not solve Oklahoma's budget problems, and in fact, will hurt the creative economy and creative industries. It could also create negative perceptions about Oklahoma outside the state, which is what happened to Kansas last year, when the Governor killed the Kansas Arts Commission through an executive order.
Loss of Federal Funds
Also, based on the $4 million OAC receives, Oklahoma in turn receives about $1 million in federal funding. Kansas lost that funding when their state arts commission, which they are now trying to feverishly recreate, was axed.
Helping Ideas Reach Critical Mass
“In Oklahoma, public funding for the arts has seeded innovative ideas before they reached critical mass,” James said. “This is the true hallmark of public funding for the arts. OAC fully vets the ideas, creators and organizers making it easier for the private sector to invest in new arts and cultural projects.
“The Oklahoma Arts Council has been an early investor in so many ideas and programs that went on to become major successes that catapulted Oklahoma onto the national scene. These include, but are not limited to Red Earth and the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. We need someone at the state level pushing these things forward.
Cutting Funding is Counter-Intuitive
“When arts council funding gets cuts, innovation hits a road block, James said. “Fighting against public funding for the arts is counter-intuitive. We want to increase arts and culture in Oklahoma so we keep our strong position on the radar, particularly for people like site selectors who examine communities and recommend them to their clients.”
On any given day two or three different causes are advocating before their state senators and representatives. This is the first year the arts have had their own advocacy day, an event Oklahomans for the Arts plans to grow and double in the coming years. Organizations signed up to host tables represent cities and towns all across the state as far north as Bartlesville and as far south as Duncan.
“We create decision-makers through the election process,” James said. “But, our obligation as citizens does not end in the voting booth. Legislators are very busy people with many issues competing for their attention.
We have an obligation to advocate to them for the kind of government we want and need. “
We All Have the Same Goal
We all have the same goals -- to make Oklahoma the best it can be. Arts funding helps bolster the creative economy and creative industries in our state. It gives kids opportunities to discover the arts and in turn find career paths and potentially make important inroads and innovations from which our communities can benefit."
Arts Day at the Capitol runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.