Arts Alert: Congresswoman McCollum Pledges Arts Support at Americans for the Arts Conference

A thousand arts people are in Minneapolis this week at the Americans for the Arts Conference, being held in downtown Minneapolis. It’s been fun to show off our great arts community to the nation.

As part of the conference, Congresswoman Betty McCollum was a keynote speaker yesterday. As Chair of the committee in the U.S. House that funds the arts and culture agencies, she is one of the most important people on the national level pushing for more support of the arts. Below is the text of her keynote at the Minneapolis Hilton:

Congresswoman Betty McCollum Remarks to Americans for the Arts Annual Convention
Minneapolis, MN
June 14, 2019

Thank you, Council Member Jenkins!

And, thank you to all of the artists, advocates, and leaders joining us here in the Twin Cities! I’m thrilled to be able to welcome you to the Bold North!

Now, you’re definitely getting the sunnier side of Minnesota’s weather this week,

but our winters aren’t the only bold thing in our state.

We are also loud, proud leaders in the arts and humanities!

In Minnesota, we voted to establish a dedicated tax to support arts and culture, clean water, and our natural resources. Now, the Legacy Fund is in place and Minnesotans will invest about $1.2 billion in arts and cultural heritage projects!

All of us here today understand the value of the arts. We understand that the arts not only enrich our lives, they are also a key component of economically strong and vibrant communities.

Nationally, the arts accounts for 4 percent of our GDP, contributing almost $764 billion to our economy and employing millions of Americans. In our state alone, the arts industry adds $12 billion to our state economy and employs nearly 100,000 Minnesotans.

I know all of you have stories of how the arts are transforming your communities,

whether you come from major cities, the suburbs, or rural America. I view investing in the as an engine for job creation and economic growth, for creativity and connection. That connection gives us a chance to share our stories, to understand the experiences of our neighbors, and to build community.

Connecting communities is something our nation desperately needs more of right now.

And that is a message that Americans for the Arts is spreading. We need your determination as advocates to educate policymakers about the power of the arts in our economy, in all our communities, in our schools, and in our lives.

I want to take a moment to especially thank Bob Lynch for his tremendous leadership as the CEO of AFA. This year, Bob testified about the importance of the arts before the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, where I am honored to serve as the Chair.

That hearing highlighted NEA’s Creative Forces initiative, which has helped military service members and veterans to heal and connect through art therapy. 

As a result of Bob’s testimony and AFA’s hard work, I was able to secure $5 million from the Veterans Administration to extend art therapy to more veterans across the country. And, we’ve started to the process to get the Department of Defense to formally support the importance of arts and creative healing.

This year, as Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee which funds the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, I am leading the House efforts to reject

the Trump administration’s short-sighted proposal to defund the Endowments.

Instead, we are going in the opposite direction. My subcommittee, Democrats and Republicans, are increasing funding for the Endowments to a combined total of $335 million — the highest level of funding in nine years! And, this is possible because of you and your advocacy.

A group of more than 150 Members of Congress Democrats and Republicans requested these increases in funding. And, I want to give a shout out to my dear friend Congresswoman Chellie Pingree from Maine who Chairs the Congressional Arts Caucus, along with the Republican Co-Chair Congresswoman Elise Stefanik from New York for their amazing leadership in in working with you.

It is because of Americans for the Arts and the amazing arts advocates here today that we are succeeding in making the case that the arts are about innovation, entrepreneurship, job creation, and building a stronger, more vibrant and inclusive America. The arts are an education issue. They are a community building issue. They are a jobs and economic development issue. And, they are a quality of life issue.

Finally, I would just like to recognize my home team, the Minnesota delegation of arts advocates – please stand up!  Let me recognize Sheila Smith from Minnesota Citizens for the Arts for her amazing leadership and stewardship of a powerful arts advocacy organization. Thank you, Sheila for all you do!

In St. Paul and Minneapolis, and all across Minnesota, the energy, innovation, and financial investment in the creative industries is shaping how we live and work. So, thank you all for being here in the Twin Cities!

Thank you for being tireless and powerful champions. And, thank you to Americans for the Arts for making the powerful case that the arts are foundational to our economy, to our communities, and to our humanity.

Please know that you have many allies in Congress who are standing with you, committed to this cause.

Thank you!