Why fund the Oklahoma Arts Council?

I’ve watched state policymakers and legislators ask this question and inexplicably seem unable to come to a fairly simple conclusion.

The Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC) is one of the leanest-operating state agencies in Oklahoma, improving the lives of Oklahomans from Frederick to Miami and Broken Bow to Black Mesa, seeding the success of hundreds of organizations through the state, stimulating economic development and educating our state’s future generations.

Yet there is still a number of legislators who seem dead set on defunding the OAC.

There are bills in the current legislative session that would kill the council, while the governor’s proposed state budget would have a different state department swallow up the OAC altogether.

I don’t know why these lawmakers don’t want to fund it. There’s so much to lose.

I don’t know why these lawmakers don’t want to fund it.

There’s so much to lose. I could tell them about the $14 in private investment we stand to lose for every $1 of public money not invested in the arts. I could tell them about the $8 in tax revenue generated from every $1 of public investment or the support and coordination the OAC gives to the more than $300 million impact that the arts and culture industry has on our state.

I would think that would be enough to sway even the most fiscally conservative lawmakers.

I could tell them about the educational impact that the arts have on our children across this state and how slashing funding or privatizing the OAC would create a system in which large metropolitan areas suffer and rural areas see the arts disappear altogether. I could tell them about how the arts council works to preserve our state’s invaluable history through efforts such as the state art collection or Capitol galleries.

But rather than continue to try explaining the importance of the arts for a second year in a row, maybe I should simply ask our state legislators a few questions of my own:

Why do you want to take away a proven economic investment?

Why do you want to take away a key educational component when art has already effectively been taken out of public schools?

Why do you want to stop the preservation of our state’s treasured history?

When I start to put it that way, I guess my real question is: Why on Earth would anyone not want to continue funding the Oklahoma Arts Council?

Jonathan Fowler is vice president of operations for Fowler Holding Co. and a longtime supporter of arts and artists across Oklahoma.

Opinions expressed on the commentary page, in letters to the editor and elsewhere in this newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ownership or management.

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