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Our Response to HB 1895

When the state Legislature convenes in early February, members will consider a bill, HB 1895, which would eliminate funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council over the course of four years.

The Oklahoma Arts Council is a state government agency that receives approximately 85 percent of its funding from state appropriations and 15 percent from a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant. The state of Oklahoma is only eligible to receive federal funding through the Oklahoma Arts Council, which meets strict NEA funding guidelines. Approximately 80 percent of our budget goes directly to communities throughout Oklahoma in the form of grants.

As a state government agency, the Oklahoma Arts Council cannot raise its own funding, as to do so would mean competing for dollars against those we serve. State dollars (in the form of matching grants) help nonprofit organizations raise private dollars for their programs, and promotes public/private partnerships. The Council provides development programs for individuals, organizations and communities to strengthen Oklahoma's cultural infrastructure. The funds the Council receives and our services are important to Oklahoma's economy, education and quality of life. As Oklahoma competes for jobs, a strong arts and cultural industry is vital to producing a skilled and creative workforce.

In a blog article, Representative Josh Cockroft cites his reasoning for introducing HB1895. In his statement, he cites Kansas as an example where the arts were defunded. We would like to bring attention to this article about decisions made in Kansas subsequent to the original decision by Kansas Gov. Brownback. We would also like to provide Michigan as an example of a state where the legislature and governor significantly increased support for the arts, recognizing the crucial role the arts play in economic development.

Kim Baker is the current executive director of the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Oklahomans for the Arts
Oklahomans for the Arts (OFTA), established in 2011, is the first nonprofit in Oklahoma whose primary mission is formal advocacy for public funding for arts, culture and arts education in Oklahoma. OFTA is part of a nationwide network that includes nearly 40 state arts advocacy organizations.

Jennifer James McCollum is the executive director.