arts alert: Arts Hearing Goes Into the Wee Hours

MCA
Minnesota Citizens for the Arts

2233 University Ave. W. #355
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-251-0868 fax 651-917-3561
staff at mncitizensforthearts.org
www.mncitizensforthearts.org
Arts Action Center

March 18 , 2009

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1. Arts Hearing Goes Into Wee hours

2. Join Us In Washington for National Arts Advocacy Day March 30-31

3. Bill Introduced to Repeal Amendment

4. Arts Issues Background

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1. Arts Hearing Goes Into Wee hours

Monday night a marathon committee meeting was held to take public testimony on what the legislature should do with the proceeds of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment’s two funds for land and for arts. It went from 4:30 PM in the afternoon until 2:00 AM the next morning.

The Legacy Amendment created an “Arts and Culture Fund” that must be spend on “ARTS, ARTS EDUCATION AND ARTS ACCESS, AND TO PRESERVE MINNESOTA’S HISTORY AND CULTURAL HERITAGE.”

It was a fascinating exercise in democracy, as many obviously non-arts organizations and individuals went to the stand and tried to connect their issue with the arts by calling themselves “culture” organizations. The weirdest was a group wanting to spend the funds on “civic education” because Minnesota has a “culture” of civic engagement. Sigh…

MCA organized an impressive roster of arts folks who did a wonderful job of testifying as to why at least 50% of the Arts and Culture Fund should be appropriated to the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Council system so that it reaches citizens in every county and every corner of the state, and supports every size and discipline of arts organization statewide. Our testifiers included:

  • Sheila Smith, Executive Director of MCA, gave an an overview, discussed how our request meshed with the goals of the committee, and answered questions for the team.
  • Sarah S. Lutman, President & Managing Director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Gabriella C. Calicchio, Managing Director of the Children\\’s Theatre in Mpls., talked about the breadth of activities provided to Minnesotans by State Arts Board and RAC grantees across the state, and the many arts education opportunities they offer.
  • David Marty, Executive Director of Reif Center for the Arts in Grand Rapids, Curt Lambrecht, Owner of Lambrecht\\’s in New Ulm, and Tony Goddard, Executive Director of the Paramount Theatre in St. Cloud talked about the importance of the arts in creating economic activity on Main Street.
  • Joel Ronning, Founder, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Digital River Inc., in Eden Prairie, talked about the importance of a thriving arts community in recruiting executive talent to our cold state, and also about the importance of the arts to developing the creative economy of the future.
  • Vickie Benson, Arts Program Director, McKnight Foundation, addressed why turning the Arts Board into a “private non-profit” as proposed by the Governor is a bad idea.
  • Sue Gens, ED of the Minnesota State Arts Board, Jeff Prauer, ED of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and Leslie Schumacher, Chair, Forum of Regional Arts Councils gave an overview of the arts system in Minnesota, and its accountability measures, and answered questions from the committee.
  • Other arts people who attended and testified also delivered the message that at least 50% of the Arts and Culture Fund should be appropriated to the MSAB and RACs, including Michelle Behsman from the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, David O’Fallon from Macphail Center for Music, and Karl Reichert from the Capri Theater in Minneapolis.

Thank you to all for committing to the endurance test that was this committee hearing, and for representing all of us in the arts so well.

The committees are required to make their recommendations on how the funds should be spent by April 16th. So we have only one more month to make our case! So far over 1500 letters to legislators have now been sent protesting Gov. Pawlenty’s proposal to cut the arts by 50 percent, and eventual elimination of the State Arts Board after 2011, as part of a package of budget changes intended to balance the state’s budget. The Governor’s budget proposal flies in the face of the clear message sent by voters in the passage of the Amendment: that we want MORE investment in the arts and culture, not less. Be a part of the action:

Help us deliver 2000 letters. Make your voice heard.

Send a letter to your legislator today saying you want them to protect the arts. You can do it in 5 minutes with our simple Arts Action Center. We give you talking points and set it up, all you have to do is enter your name and address and the letter will go automatically to the right elected officials.

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2. Join Us In Washington for National Arts Advocacy Day March 30-31

On March 30-31, 2009, twenty Minnesotans are going to Washington to talk to our members of Congress about support for the arts. March 30 is a day of training, culminating in the Nancy Hanks Lecture, this year to be given by Wynton Marsalis (!). March 31 is a day for visits to Congress, kicked off by a breakfast that will feature Linda Ronstadt and Josh Groban (!). Details on National Arts Advocacy Day, organized by Americans for the Arts, can be found at: http://www.artsusa.org/events/2009/aad/default.asp. We’d love to have a big team of Minnesotans storming the Capitol. If you’d like to come, please register with Americans for the Arts and send me an email at staff@mncitizensforthearts so I can get you together with our team.

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3. Bill Introduced to Repeal Amendment

Well, I suppose it’s no surprise that there are sore losers in the world. Rep. Buesgens has introduced a bill that would repeal the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. Considering that it took ten years to pass the bill through the legislature, followed by a year long campaign to pass the Amendment with the public, who overwhelmingly passed it by 56% of the vote, I think the bill won’t go anywhere. He would have to pass it through both houses of the legislature, and then run a statewide campaign to get people to vote for the repeal.

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4. Background on Arts Issues

On election day, Minnesotans approved a once in a lifetime investment in the arts. Passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment is expected to create anywhere from $40 to $50 million annually to support the arts, arts access, arts education and history. The amendment also says these new resources should not be a substitute for traditional sources of funding. Unfortunately, the new money won’t be available for a while, perhaps not until late 2010 or 2011. (The new tiny increase in the state sales tax, created by the Amendment, doesn’t start until July, 2009, and then the funds raised by the tax will need to accumulate in the new Arts and Culture Fund before they can be spent).

The Amendment’s details will be sorted out in the Minnesota House Cultural and Outdoors Resources Finance Division, chaired by Rep. Mary Murphy, as well as Sen. David Tomassoni’s Economic Development and Housing Division in the Senate, this legislative session, which ends in May. The state has a huge deficit. Just like he has done before, the Governor has proposed cutting the Minnesota State Arts Board (MSAB) and Regional Arts Councils by 50% over the next two years, and then eliminating the MSAB completely after that. This is contrary to the wishes of the voters who passed the amendment by 56% – a higher percentage vote than that received by President Obama in Minnesota. Minnesotans want MORE investments in the arts and culture, not less.

MCA had a huge role in the Vote Yes! campaign to pass the amendment. Our position is that the legislature should, as we have been discussing for several years, appropriate at least 50% of the new resources from the amendment to the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils, so that it does indeed reach every MN county through their grants and services and is not diverted to some other, unknown purpose. We also oppose eliminating the Minnesota State Arts Board or turning it into a private, non-profit, as it will largely be spending public dollars and should remain in the highly accountable, transparent public system.

Check out two great videos from Arts Advocacy Day Held February 24, 2009:

Here’s a video of highlights from the Arts Advocacy Day kickoff rally on MN Stories by Chuck Olsen:
http://www.mnstories.com/video/376/Arts-Adcovacy-Day

…and a 3 Minute Egg arts show by Matt Peiken with interviews of attendees and some footage of meetings with legislators:
http://www.mnstories.com/video/374/3-MINUTE-EGG-Arts-Advocacy-Day

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