It was like walking into a morgue.
Wrapped as if in death shrouds, all the sculptures and paintings in the art gallery were covered in black cloth and garbage bags.
Art students at Bethel College organized Friday as a day without art. On Thursday night they covered all the public art on campus, including Ted Krone’s temporary exhibit in the Fine Arts Center Art Gallery and the fountain on the Green.
About 50 pieces of art were concealed for the event to raise awareness of Gov. Sam Brownback’s executive reorganization order that will make the Kansas Arts Commission a privately funded organization.
Not only will arts in Kansas lose the $575,000 next fiscal year in annual state funding, but Kansas also stands to lose an additional $778,300 in funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and $437,767 from the Mid-American Arts Alliance.
Many local organizations receive funding from the Kansas Arts Commission, some of which include Hesston Bethel Performing Arts, Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony, Bethel
College Academy of Performing Arts and the Carriage Factory Art Gallery.
Some of the local agencies said they would lose about 10 percent of the budgets, requiring them to reduce programing.
The students also noted that other public arts projects in Newton received funding from the Kansas Arts Commission, including the mural in Centennial Park and the new mural on the Combs organ building in downtown Newton.
The students said they had been raised with exposure to state-funded arts programs, some of which had inspired them to pursue careers in art.
Ricardo Sanchez, a Bethel junior, majoring in art, wants to be a an art teacher.
“I didn’t really have anything to do with art until I was in high school,” he said. “Then I participated in programs that were put on by organizations that were funded by the state. If we lose funding, all of that won’t be offered to other people. They won’t get the opportunity to express themselves. I fear that.”
Erica Buller, Bethel junior, majoring in art, said she too grew up with locally funded arts program in her hometown of Lenexa.
“I grew up with Arts in the Park and other county-funded programs. These programs are important to kids,” she said. “It was part of the reason why I became an art major. They are great social programs.”
Megan Upton-Tyner, Bethel theater director, said she thinks the governor has gone too far.
“I understand we are all facing budget shortfalls all over the state and the country,” she said. “We all have to do with a little bit less, but cutting is not the answer.”
Arts programs are essential to both large and rural communities, not just from educational and quality of life standpoints, but from an economic perspective also, she said.
Page 2 of 2 - “Arts are good business,” she said.
The shrouds on the Bethel Art will be removed Saturday, but for those local residents interested in more on this topic, there will be a Newton Arts Community Forum at 7:30 p.m. Monday at McKinley Administrative Center, 308 E. First St. in Newton.