Three years ago, the voters of Tulsa approved plans to put $2.25 million from the Vision Tulsa package into local arts funding, but to date, none of the money has been distributed.
City Councilor Phil Lakin originally proposed including the art funding in the Vision package as a way to help local arts groups get the public funding they need to stay afloat.
But since voters approved the package, jockeying over who gets to distribute the money and how applications will be received and evaluated has slowed the process.
The whole issue was complicated by Lakin’s ties to the Arts Alliance of Tulsa. He served on the group’s citizens advisory board when the Vision package was put together, and he initially intended the alliance to distribute the money. Lakin is executive director of the Tulsa Community Foundation, which has the alliance as a component. He is also chairman of the board of directors of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which provided $1 million in early funding for the alliance.
Lakin says he long ago accepted that the Tulsa Arts Commission not the alliance will be the one to distribute the money, but he put the brakes on the commission’s plans for the funding process because it seemed needlessly detailed and would effectively shut out small arts groups.
We admire Lakin for fighting to get arts funding in the Vision package. The arts are a vital part of what makes Tulsa special, a key part of Tulsa’s vision of itself. Further, he’s right to push the city to make sure the funding is distributed in a fashion that allows large and small organizations to compete for it. You shouldn’t need a staff grant writer to be in the game.
But it’s time to get this money moving in the interest of showing that City Hall can get its work done.
In November, the city is asking Tulsa voters to approve a $639 million package that includes roads, public safety and a lot of other high-priority projects. The last thing the city should want on voters’ minds when they consider that proposal is why the city can’t seem to get $2.25 million in arts money into the pipeline.
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