Finances Force Wichita Black Arts Festival To Cancel This Year

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tough economic times are forcing the cancellation of a Wichita festival held every Labor Day since 1968. Seventeenth Street will be much quieter this Labor Day weekend because the Wichita Black Arts Festival doesn't have money to put on their annual three-day event.

The drum corps will be silenced. The dancers and marchers stilled. Simply not enough money came in to fund the Wichita Black Arts Festival. Board member Dana McPherson said the main reason is economics. The financial squeeze began three years ago when the economy went into recession. "We thought we could make up the differences ourselves," McPherson said.

McPherson said it was easier to raise money when corporations could be more liberal with support. The festival also got support from the Kansas Arts Commission which was replaced with a non-profit foundation by Governor Sam Brownback. "Of course that's a contributing factor," he said.

One event remaining is the MOJA 5K Run & Walk August 27th at the former Grove Park. Then, there's next year. "Next year we hope to come back bigger and stronger," McPherson said. That, he says will be by making a broader appeal to the community rather than traditional donors. Board member Carla Jackson-Patton says the focus will be on involvement. "Appeal to the community, show them where they can be involved, have projects all during the year," Jackson -Patton, said.

And if the festival gets more grass roots support, then perhaps they won't have to depend on commissions and businesses for funding and the sounds of festivities will once again be heard on Labor Day weekend along 17th Street.

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