A state House committee will conduct a hearing Thursday morning on a measure that could consolidate three agencies into the Tourism, History and Cultural Department.
Those agencies are the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation
Department, the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Oklahoma Arts Council.
The House Government Modernization panel will discuss the
issue at 10:30 a.m. in Room 412C in the state Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Rep.
Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) chairs the committee but was not available for
comment on deadline Wednesday.
House Bill 3028 has drawn criticism from longtime state
arts supporters like Jonathan Fowler. He
and his family support and work with projects from the Norman Arts
Council to OKC’s arts-friendly Plaza District and Tulsa’s historic Blue Dome District.
“Consolidation would be a terrible thing for the arts,”
he said. “We have gone through repeated attacks on the arts over the years, and
this doesn’t make sense to me or a lot of other people.”
Fowler believes consolidation would significantly reduce
or eliminate state funding for the arts.
Currently, the Oklahoma Arts Council receives $4 million
in state aid, which represents about 85 percent of the agency’s total budget,
he said. Another 15 percent comes from a National Endowment for the Arts state agency partnership grant.
“Right now, for every $1 in state funding, we are able to
go out and generate an additional $14 in private donations,” Fowler said. “If
the Arts Council did not have that money, we could not go out and get matching
Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts & Culture
Organizations in Oklahoma, a study by Oklahoma City University, shows similar
The proposed department would be split into four
divisions: tourism and recreation, film and music, the Oklahoma Historical
Society and the Oklahoma Arts Council.
Earlier this week, Rep. Dan Fisher (R-Oklahoma City) dropped a bill
that would have defunded the Oklahoma Arts Council due to what he said was a
lack of support.