Action Alert Issued: Arts Education & Budgets in Balance

We need your action so that every Oklahoman can experience and benefit from the arts.

Efforts are underway to consolidate the Oklahoma Arts Council, possibly moving our arts agency under the Department of Tourism. Lawmakers need to hear from you now.

As we prepare for Oklahoma Arts Day on May 4 (hope you’re coming), legislative leaders will be negotiating the upcoming year’s budget and finalizing other decisions.

This consolidation risk compounds our concerns about the state’s budget shortfall will negatively impact communities and students for many years to come. We strongly object to consolidating our state art agency as it will limit community arts and arts education across the state.

Budget:
All state agencies are facing significant reductions. The Oklahoma Art Council has already presented contingency plans for up to 10% cuts, which would mean a loss of over $350,000 more for arts programs and education. Learn more about the Oklahoma Arts Council’s impact on our state and education.  Funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council serves individuals of all ages and communities across the state.

Consolidation:
Consolidating agencies with divergent missions only hurts both agencies and does not result in savings.  Consolidation of the Oklahoma Arts Council would mean:

  • No cost savings: Currently the Oklahoma Arts Council budget makes up less than .05% of the state budget. Cuts to the agency or consolidation will not close the budget gap.
    • Also, the Oklahoma Arts Council is very efficiently administered state agency with a very low ratio of overhead expense. The Oklahoma Arts Council only uses 8% of its budget on administration.
  • Risk of lost regional and federal funding: Federal funding and regional services add more than $1M to Oklahoma’s communities. The National Endowment for the Arts’ requirements  make it difficult for consolidated agencies to meet eligibility for funds.
    • Kansas’s arts council lost federal funding after being consolidated, regained it briefly then lost it again.
  • Increased politicization: The Oklahoma Arts Council has an independent board appointed by the Governor that has the authority to select or discharge the director, OAC functions in a very focused manner. The grants program of the OAC is nationally recognized for its long history of objectivity, third party review and freedom from outside influence.  As a result an OAC grant creates a seal of approval for the agency or activity receiving it and this becomes a critical point of evaluation by local donors in making a decision to invest.  It is doubtful that this reputation could be maintained if OAC was consolidated with another agency.
  • Reduced state funding: Other states that have consolidated their state art agency have lost 20-60% of funding within 4 years. Consolidated agencies don’t just lose staff, they lose programs and funding as well.
    • See this presentation from the Oklahoma House of Representative’s Interim Study in 2014.
  • Taking Advocacy Away: Consolidation would reduce our ability to advocate for arts funding and services. If the agency become a department within another agency, the budget, goals and strategic plans will no longer be as clearly available. Advocates will have less ability to give feedback or lobby for community needs.

See a boiled down fact sheet about the importance of the Oklahoma Arts Council and why consolidation doesn’t make sense here: 2016 Arts Day Fact Sheet Oklahoma Arts Council.

The arts and culture industry, our communities and Oklahoma students needs the Oklahoma Arts Council as an independent state agency.

We each must tell our stories so to help legislators understand the impact.  

Will you write and tell them your stories today?

Thank you for your work to improve our state with arts and culture!

With hope,
Julia

Julia Kirt

Executive Director
Oklahomans for the Arts

Oklahomans for the Arts Board: 
Jim Tolbert, Chair (OKC)
Governor Bill Anaoutubby (Chickasaw Nation)
Billie Barnett (Tulsa)
Bill Cameron (OKC)
Ryan Cunningham (OKC)
Charlie Daniels (Bartlesville)
Nance Diamond (Shawnee)
Linda Edmondson (Tulsa)
C. Ken Fergeson (Altus)
Russ Florence (OKC)
Linda Frazier (Tulsa)
Ann Graves (Tulsa)
Will Jones (Deer Creek)
Michael Joseph (OKC)
Vince LoVoi (Tulsa)
Roxanna Lorton (Tulsa)
Desmond Mason (OKC)
Melvin Moran (Shawnee)
Larry Nichols (OKC)
James Pickel (OKC)
Joy Reed Belt (OKC)
Suzanne Tate (OKC)
Dr. Peggy Wisdom (Alva)