Arts Alert: This is What We Are Advocating For This Week

This is What We are
Advocating For This Week

We, like you, have been reacting to the swiftly changing environment for the arts in Minnesota and the nation with a combination of alarm and resolve. Events have moved so quickly that new issues seem to spring up daily. Here’s some of what we’ve been doing in response.


CONTENTS:
1. “We Are United” Statement
2. Getting Information to the Field
3. Getting a Handle on the Damage to the Field
4. Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Council System

  • Deadline Extensions
  • The State’s Budget is Shrinking Rapidly
  • What We Are Hoping For

1. WE ARE UNITED STATEMENT

The Creative Minnesota project that is housed at MCA became a vessel for a wide-ranging conversation among statewide arts service organizations and arts supporting foundations about how we could collectively best help artists and arts organizations weather the storm.

The conversation resulted in “We Are United: A Letter From the Field.” which we sent out earlier this week.

The most important statement, I think, is:
“Those of us that support the state’s arts community are unanimous.
We are all working to increase funding flexibility, extend deadlines, address unforeseen gaps in funding and work together to do everything we can to be supportive in this unprecedented time for the arts in Minnesota. We remain committed to working together, as one, to bring you updates, activate you for timely advocacy efforts, share resources, and support the critical and important work of Minnesota’s creative sector.”
Signatories to this letter range from Minnesota Citizens for the Arts to all of the Regional Arts Councils and the State Arts Board. Everyone in that Zoom “room” showed a unity of purpose to do all we can to support our community. Each of them are moving as quickly as they can. Remember that it’s been only a month since this great catastrophe began.


2. GETTING INFORMATION TO THE FIELD

We are getting information on potential resources for artists and arts organizations out as quickly as possible via MCA Arts Alerts and our MCA Facebook page, and referring artists to the Springboard for the Arts website where help for artists is being centralized.


3. GETTING A HANDLE ON THE DAMAGE TO THE FIELD

We are urging ARTISTS and ARTS ORGANIZATIONS to help us gather information on the damage to the field that we can use to advocate for artists and arts organizations at the legislature and in congress with our partners Americans for the Arts. (If you haven’t yet, please do the survey!) Please help us ensure the nation’s political leaders understand the impact this crisis is having on the creative sector.


4. MINNESOTA STATE ARTS BOARD AND REGIONAL ARTS COUNCIL SYSTEM: 

  • DEADLINE EXTENSIONS

One of the first problems identified was that state dollars in some of the grant programs administered by the MSAB and RAC system will expire by law on June 30, 2020. This means that if artists and arts organizations were going to have programs or tours that happened between March and June this year that were suddenly canceled because of the coronavirus, the events couldn’t happen at all and much of the grant money would have to be returned because they can’t be postponed to happen after that date.

MCA immediately began working with our friends at the legislature to offer language changes in the current legislative session that would allow the MSAB/RAC system to give grantees the flexibility to do those activities later this year or next year when the coronavirus crisis has passed. We will know in the next few weeks if this effort is successful.

  • THE STATE’S BUDGET IS SHRINKING RAPIDLY

You should know that state arts funding comes from two sources – the General Fund, and the Legacy Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The General Fund is the state’s overall spending pool, and the Legacy Fund resources come from the sales tax. With the economy in free fall because of the shut downs from the coronavirus crisis, both of those revenue sources are going to decrease over the next two years. There will be less arts funding, but that will be true of everything else in the state budget as well. Resources have been shifted to support hospitals and the unemployed.

The state must have a balanced budget, so that means over the next two years the state’s spending will shrink unless they raise taxes. It may be two years or more before the economy goes back to normal.

  • WHAT WE ARE HOPING FOR

The Regional Arts Councils have pivoted rapidly to create new programs and new flexibility for their constituents. Consult their websites to see their work in your area.

The State Arts Board has spent all of its grant program dollars for this fiscal year so they can’t re-purpose this year’s grants. What they are looking at is how to manage the (shrinking) arts dollars they will have next fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2020.

The Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils conducted a survey of the field and learned that what the field wanted was more flexible operating and emergency funding. For that reason, last week the Minnesota State Arts Board voted to continue the Operating Support Program and convert the rest of its resources starting July 1, 2020 to two simple programs:

  1. Operating Support for artists, and
  2. Operating Support for organizations. 

They are figuring out how that would work right now. Our hope is that the Minnesota State Arts Board will include the following features in its new programs:

  1. Make the application process simple.
  2. Make the turnaround time fast so the checks go out quickly.
  3. Let the organization or artist decide how to use the grant – either to survive or to do a program they were planning on (or both).
  4. Use applications already received for the canceled programs as applications for the new ones, so that artists and organizations don’t have to do them twice.
  5. Let organizations and artists who were previous grantees be eligible for the new ones. So, for example, if an organization was hoping to get a grant from the Arts Tour program, they could use the new dollars to do the Tour.
  6. And finally, if the date extensions are passed by the legislature, extend grant periods and final reports as far out as the law allows.

It is now April 15, just over two weeks since the Governor’s Stay at Home order. This much change in such a short time is understandably shocking and disturbing to all of us. Nevertheless, the MSAB process will need to move quickly to set up new programs by the end of the state’s fiscal year on June 30, 2020, and we hope they will incorporate the above features in their new plan.

We hope you are safe and well, and want you to know that we are doing everything we can to get everyone going in the same direction.

Sincerely,

Sheila Smith
Executive Director
Minnesota Citizens for the Arts