Hatteberg's People - Fighting For Art: Rachel Buller

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

On Hatteberg's People, it was roughly a year ago, when the state of Kansas became the only state without an arts commission. Since then, with art funding dramatically cut, artists have been voicing their concerns. This weekend, an art show at City Arts features 24 female artists and is the inaugural show of the Kansas Chapter of The Feminist Art Project. Organized by artist Rachel Buller, the show Art Lives reflects on the state of the arts in Kansas.

"Culture is important to everyone. No one wants to live in a state that has no art and culture," said Buller.

Buller is an Assistant Professor of Arts at Bethel College in North Newton. She works directly with students who hope to enter the art world. When the state cut the Kansas Arts Commission a year ago, she and other artists were stunned at the decision by the governor and the legislature.

"People spend money to participate in cultural activities and they also spend money on other things. Whether it is travel, food, lodging, the arts are an economic generator, they bring in revenue more than just to pay for themselves," she said.

Rachel found other female artists who agreed to put on the Feminist Art Project in a show of solidarity for the arts. The show is at Wichita City Arts. Some of the art is sharp in its criticism of Kansas politicians and the artists themselves have strong views. One describes how she felt about the arts situation in Kansas as she was creating her art.

"Now a year later, I wanted to work with artists around the state to make some connections and to think about how we can work together creatively to move forward despite this economic crises," said Buller.

"I started choosing material so I could kind of beat up and rip apart and literally cut into. The surfaces of my paintings became a real symbol of how this who issue is playing out," said artist Mika Holtzinger.

"Art is a business. Art is a job. We know that and then to have a state not recognize that it is a valuable part of not just commerce, but also as a cultural contract with the community is really a blow," said artist Erika Nelson.

"I use art as a means to let children express themselves and treat their trauma. The idea that we are getting budget cuts from that is not only harmful to our creative process but it is harmful to children," said Youthville worker Micala Gingrick-Gaylor.

"Kansas has more artists per capita than any other state in the nation, which is remarkable," said Buller.

At this point, no one knows for sure what the future of art funding in Kansas will be. There does appear to be a softening of positions from both Governor Sam Brownback and the legislature, but so far, no funding action has been taken to restore money for the arts or an arts commission.

"We're going to keep creating whether or not we have the funding, but we hope in time, it will come back around for us," said artist Sasha Chapek.

"We care a lot about Kansas. Our roots are here. In order to enjoy that we really need to find out what is happening in the government and what is happening in our community and I would like to see that happen," said artist Kate Larson.

"Arts are very much alive in Kansas and very vibrant," said Buller.

The women involved in Art Lives believe strongly in the power of art and its importance to the community. Others believe if you want art, pay for it yourself and leave the public out of the equation. It is a battle that does not appear to be ending anytime soon. Art Lives will be at City Arts in Wichita through the month of April.

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