12 February 2011

Nothing But the Great Gray Prairie on Every Side

This image comes from the blog Imagine Kansas Without Art, which I learned about from Philip Nel’s posting on the topic.

Nel, a professor of children’s literature at Kansas State University, writes:

People associate Kansas with Oz, and think of Dorothy (portrayed by Judy Garland) saying, near the 1939 film’s end, “There’s no place like home,” and “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!” But in the book, Kansas is a bleak, grey place. . . .

Dorothy’s journey to Oz — which, in the novel, is a real place (and not a dream) — is an escape into color, adventure, and art. Kansas without these things is, as [L. Frank] Baum wrote, “dull and gray.” That appears to be Governor [Sam] Brownback’s vision for the state.

I mean, never mind the absurdity of the economic argument. For each dollar the state spends on the Arts Commission, it brings $2 in federal money back to the state — giving $1 the power of $3 is a strong financial reason to retain the Arts Commission. Beyond that, the arts bring in revenues from tourism, which help broaden the tax base. . . .

But even an stronger rationale than the economics argument is this: life without art is bleak.
The situation in Kansas is mirrored by the situation for the US as a whole: Republicans who now control the House of Representatives want to make serious cuts in the federal arts and culture budget. The Senate and White House will oppose those measures, but we all inherited big deficits and a recession from the previous administration. The first vote on appropriations for these agencies is about to come up.

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