Recently I was given permission to photograph KU’s NCAA National Championship Outdoor women’s track and field team in Swarthout Recital Hall in Murphy Hall, just northeast of Allen Fieldhouse. The stage provided the needed room and clean background for the team photographs my studio could not provide.
On the appointed day, Laura helped me haul strobes over to the Hall. A staff member instructed us how to handle the ambient light since we were taking the photographs after normal work hours. Sadly, she spent a great deal of time apologizing over the condition of the Hall. Early on, I was just happy to have a big space for work. We hardly noticed the state of the Hall while I coaxed Laura into a variety of dancing leaps and stunts for my test photographs.
Only after we sat down to wait for the team’s arrival did we begin to really look around the Hall. Our host was correct. The cushioned chairs in the 350-seat facility looked worn with tattered edges. The wood stage needs a heavy-duty sanding and refinishing. The lighting, while of no consequence for our strobed photographs, was clearly antiquated.
As an academic advisor for the athletic department, Laura knows well the campus buildings, the professors and staffing for the many Colleges on the KU campus. I am sorry to say I do not. I have photographed many campus settings and dealt with a few professors and wonderful people who have helped me with photographs. The demands on my time in athletics do not always allow for a whole campus perspective.
Raising money is the toughest part of college athletic life and for any business in general. My hope is that those raising money are successful because it does affect my future and does have an effect on what I am able to do photographically. I have no idea how the University handles funding. The condition of Swarthout Hall might not be a priority. Yet, seeing Swarthout Hall helped me realize that for every dollar that goes to athletics, I hope just as many and more go to the rest of the campus needs.
Unfortunately, the economics of our state do not seem to hold much hope. The recently passed budget dramatically reduces funding for education throughout the state. Our Governor, Sam Brownback, feels there is no need for funding for the arts and eliminated all state support. It was hard swallowing his praise from the stage of the Symphony in the Flint Hills. Calling the outdoor concert “iconic” sounded hypocritical from the man slashing arts funding.
Every discussion of reducing taxes or eliminating state income tax means the resulting deficit has to be balanced somewhere. My fear is that reductions for education will only continue. I worry what that means for education long-term and my grandson’s schooling.
The recent story on Brownback and our state legislature in Rolling Stone is disturbing. It paints a sad picture for our state and certainly is worth a read. Some argue “what else would you expect from Rolling Stone,” but I believe such political reporting is important and enlightening. The struggle for our state leadership in 2014 will be intense and critical.
Maybe next year’s gubernatorial candidates should hold a debate in Swarthout Hall and seriously discuss the sad state of educational funding in our state.