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More than a chip off the old block
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“I am blessed,” said Great Bend artist Chet Cale earlier this week.
He uttered these words with the utmost sincerity standing in the middle of his Stone Street Arts studio. As he spoke,  a sun already defused by the clouds, flooded the room with a soft light. The larger-than-life-sized statue of micro chip innovator Jack Kilby and the statues of two children surrounded Cale, as did the eclectic collection of other sculptures, drawings, photographs, tools of the trade and a half-eaten lunch.
“I am truly blessed.”
Cale received the commission to produced the works for the Jack Kilby Memorial in front of the Barton County courthouse, a job he says could have gone to “some famous artist.” Instead, the local organizers for the project looked his way.
It takes just one glance at the towering clay likenesses to see he was a wise choice.
He embarked on this journey a year and a half ago and now the pieces are headed to the foundry to be cast in bronze. He is both honored and exhausted.
I chatted with Cale as I photographed him, stepping over, around and under stuff. He talked about the work and about his community.
He mentioned a gentleman who visited his studio, a former Great Bend resident, who commented on how proud he was of his former hometown and how it has grown.
Funny, that is contrary to what a lot of folks are saying. “Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to see things,” Cale said. He’s right.
The title of the Kilby work is “The Gift.” It is a perpetual stage production set in bronze. Kilby, one of the pioneers of the modern computer era, hands his legacy down to a young girl and a slightly older boy. This saga plays out through Kilby’s massive out-stretched hand.
This legacy is the gift, but the connection between the three is about much more than integrated circuits. He hands down a positive energy from one generation to another, an energy that can build a community.
Outsiders can see the good. Can we?
I stood there amid those creative forces and was reminded of the power and importance of the arts. The facial expressions and simple gestures of the these statues said so much.
Still, whether it’s the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kansas Arts Commission, local arts groups or art in our schools, artists young and old must fight for the funds that make their work possible. The arts seem to be prime fodder for budget cutters blindly swinging a scythe.
The Kansas Arts Commission’s chairman said Tuesday he worries Gov. Sam Brownback will veto the commission’s entire budget. The governor hasn’t said if he’ll veto individual budget items to strike the Arts Commission’s funding. But he has already attempted unsuccessfully to eliminate the commission as a state agency and replace it with a private, nonprofit foundation that would rely far more heavily on private funds.
The Republican-controlled Senate’s version of the budget includes $689,000 for the commission, a decrease of nearly $109,000, or 14 percent from its current budget of nearly $798,000. Many of the performances and exhibits we have the good fortune of witnessing here are made possible by the KAC.
If the budget is vetoed, the commission stands to lose all of its state money.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said if the governor wants to accomplish his often-stated goal of attracting people and businesses to rural areas, he should keep the commission in place.
“The Kansas Arts Commission provides cultural opportunities in many rural communities that would not exist if the Kansas Arts Commission did not exist,” he said.
None the less, in this economic environment, everything has to be examined for potential cost reductions and the arts are no exception. As an artist and a supporter of the arts, I would like to scream “leave the money alone.” But, this is not realistic.
Schools, social services and other state aide recipients continue to clamor for more. Something has to give. As much as
I hate to say it, perhaps Brownback is correct (at least in part) when he says there should be more private money shoring up artistic endeavors. There is compromise ground here – cut but don’t cancel.
So, this is a call to local patrons. If we really value the arts and view them as part of the legacy we want to pass to our children and their children, we must be willing to support them.
I’m pretty darn sure Kilby, with his extended palm, isn’t seeking hand-outs.
As a Democrat, this is tough for me to say, believe me.
It will be another year before Cale’s works stand on the pedestals in front of the courthouse. But when they do, will there still be money to continue such efforts. What are we handing down?
Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at