Let’s hope a legislator’s effort to eventually cut off all state funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council gets stopped or voted down.
These uninformed attacks on the arts or the Oklahoma Education Television Authority are nothing new, of course, but that doesn’t mean this current effort couldn’t sneak through the legislature, which will convene this coming Monday.
State Rep. Dan Fisher, a Yukon Republican, has introduced House Bill 2850, which would reduce funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC) by 25 percent in proceeding years until all appropriations are eliminated by fiscal year 2018.
Devon Green, writing in the Oklahoma Gazette, recently outlined the impact of the cuts and the eventual elimination of funding. The OAC funds around 400 programs throughout the state, according to the article, and smaller, rural programs would get hit the hardest.
Taking money away from artistic endeavors lowers the quality of life in any given area. Oklahoma needs to expand cultural and artistic opportunities because of its death of cultural opportunities despite improvement in recent years. The huge economic impact of artistic events and programs often gets lost in funding debates as conservatives try to simplify the issue or issue sanctimonious ideological decrees about government spending.
For years, studies have consistently shown the positive impact of arts in our communities in engaging and connecting people. Creating a strong sense of community has a domino effect in building a healthy, aware citizenry. Other studies have shown how arts education develops in students a host of attributes, including communication skills, transferable to other non-artistic endeavors.
Fisher, a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, recently publicly opposed the staging of the play “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” in Oklahoma City. The play contained tolerant depictions of homosexuality and satirized Biblical stories. The OAC denied funding for the play.
This is a snippet about Fisher on his religious and political views:
Dan believes that American [sic] is facing a crisis today much the same as the one faced by the country in 1776. He says it is time for the preachers of America to respond to God’s call and fully engage in the culture war that is destroying our liberties and will eventually, if not checked, steal away our religious liberty and our opportunity to freely preach the Gospel.
The idea that anyone is trying to take away Fisher’s “opportunity” to “preach the Gospel” here in Oklahoma is as ludicrous as eliminating funding for the arts.