Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Economy could bring a boon for local entertainment, arts

By JENALEA MYERS, Herald Night News Editor | 11/12/2009

Appreciation.

That’s what some local arts advocates say they hope people gain during these tough economic times.

Appreciation.

That’s what some local arts advocates say they hope people gain during these tough economic times.

Appreciation for cheaper forms of entertainment. Appreciation for local organizations and services they provide.

“I think people are looking for local interesting resources to attend that they may not have looked at before,” Bill Schleiter, president of the Ottawa Community Arts Council, said.

And those resources — plays, artist showcases and other activities — are important, Bob Marsh, president of Ottawa’s Art Guild, said. He is a longtime advocate of public funding for “community recreation,” which combines recreation, entertainment and arts.

“I think the arts are a great outlet,” he said. “Everyone needs a taste of them.”

Cutting back

Providing those services during tough economic times has been difficult, they said.

The Kansas Arts Commission cut money given to the arts council by a third this year, Schleiter said. The council received 80 percent of its funding from the commission in September and was told it could receive the remaining 20 percent at the end of the fiscal year, he said.

“The next hurdle will be at the end of the fiscal year,” he said. “We may or may not get that 20 percent of the grant.”

Reduced funding has local organization leaders looking for additional grant opportunities.

“I’m applying for more grants and searching for more resources than I usually do, which is good,” Schleiter said.

He said the art council’s 175 active members also have played a role in the organization’s funding.

“Member income has increased by about 50 percent,” he said.

More cuts to come

When Franklin County commissioners considered budget cuts for organizations, Franklin County Historical Society leaders worried cuts would affect the organization’s programs, personnel and hours.

The cut – $9,000 – won’t impact personnel this year, Deb Barker, director of the historical society, said.

“We have been able to make cuts in supplies and program funds and lessen the number of newsletters we create during the year,” she said. “So far, the cuts will only hurt our ability to finish our cataloging project with adequate acid-free boxes and supplies.”

But that’s only for this year, she said.

“The county administrator tells us that the larger cuts will still be coming over the next two years, and those will drastically affect open hours at the museums and the number of personnel available to help people at the Records Center,” she said.

Attendance increase

Barker said attendance this year at the museum has been about average.

“We have had increases in people volunteering to help with programs during this time,” she said.

Other organizations, like ACT Ottawa, report higher attendance at events than usual.

“We saw a huge boost at the last show, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” Rebecca Campbell, president of ACT Ottawa, said.

She said she was unsure the reason for the increase.

“We don’t know if that’s from some of the strategic planning we’ve been doing, the level of artist talent or due to the fact that people are staying closer to home,” she said.

But the programs offered locally should be taken advantage of, Campbell said.

“You can spend $10 on a show here in town and not spend the gas,” she said. “Or, you can spend $20 in Lawrence and spend the gas. We hope people appreciate and utilize things they have right here in the community.”

Schleiter would agree. The art council’s last artist reception drew as many people as he’s seen at a reception.

“We’re trying to provide interesting things for people to come to in town, and they seem to be coming to them,” he said.

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