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Kym Koch Thompson knows not everyone living in Oklahoma has a passion for the arts, but she is hoping they have a passion for economic improvement.
“There are some scary things happening,” she says. “While every other state agency received a 9% cut, the arts got a 15% cut. The Kansas governor did away with arts funding altogether. People need to know how much of an impact art has to local economies, especially in the rural areas.”
For that reason, Thompson, along with Oklahoma City businessman and arts supporter Jim Tolbert and Tulsa volunteer and arts advocate Linda Frazier, formed the first nonprofit advocacy agency for public funding of the arts, arts education and culture in Oklahoma. Oklahomans for the Arts will raise awareness and support for arts funding through public education, lobbying and fund-raising.
According to Tolbert, Oklahoma is one of seven states without a formal advocacy group. Due to funding cuts, Tolbert says the group’s timing was vital.
For FY 2011, appropriations for the Oklahoma Arts Council were $4,406,689, a 15% drop from FY 2010 appropriations of $5,150,257. The Oklahoma Arts Council, which has an annual appropriation of $4 million, grants 90% of its budget to events in communities across the state.
“Arts and culture are major components of any thriving economic center,” Tolbert says. “We have demonstrated for years how paramount both are to economic development. They are keys to attracting and maintaining a diverse and intelligent workforce, both of which are needed for Oklahoma to compete vigorously in the global marketplace.”
Thompson says in Oklahoma alone, more than 22,000 jobs are created through cultural and artistic endeavors. More than 4,600 businesses also depend on arts to survive.
“The arts have a huge economic impact, and continued support is absolutely necessary to the state’s financial well-being,” she says.