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Arts Commentary: How Well Do The Mayoral Candidates Stack Up On The Arts?


I attended the Mayoral Candidate Forum hosted by The Arts Council last week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened.

With few exceptions, the mayoral candidates leave much to be desired when it comes to their understanding of the arts.

The candidates discussed art as: an education issue, a funding issue, a branding issue, a worker retention issue, or a tourism and entertainment issue. This is all art in the service of another cause, which is not inherently bad, just misguided – especially for the audience sitting across from them.

The 200 people in the audience were the arts and culture professionals that generate over 66 million dollars for the arts industry in Wichita. 

Credit wichita.gov

Coming from the visual arts, I was proud to see representatives from: Tallgrass Film Festival, Harvester Arts, ICT-Army of Artists, Creative Rush, Go-Away Garage, Arts Partners, WSU College of Fine Arts and the Ulrich Museum of Art among our numerous non-profits, professional artists, independent curators, writers and patrons. These people, plus hundreds more, make this industry happen and we seemed to be invisible to the panel.

The low point of the night came when six of the nine candidates present had to admit they currently do not have memberships or directly support a cultural institution after delivering endless platitudes about the importance of art.

My hope is to see our next mayor to lead by example when it comes to arts and culture – that one question narrowed the field considerably.