Arts Alert: MCA is Celebrating 40 Years of Arts Advocacy!

Minnesota Citizens for the Arts Celebrates
40 Years of Arts Advocacy!


Minnesota Citizens for the Arts (MCA) will celebrate 40 years as the oldest and most successful state arts advocacy organization in the country with a party at the Walker Art Center on Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.. From its small beginnings in 1975, when annual state funding for the arts was just $300,000, MCA has helped increase state arts funding catapulting Minnesota ahead of its peers to become the nation’s leader in per capita arts funding. Over those 40 years, MCA has been successful in advocating for increased access to the arts, fueling Minnesota’s national reputation as a hotbed of creative activity and high quality of life.

The MCA model is to advocate for policies that ensure that regardless of where you live in the state you have access to the arts. Resources reach organizations, artists, audiences and school children in every corner of the state through the unique competitive grant making system of the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils, which MCA helped to create.

“By achieving significant policy victories for artists and cultural organizations, MCA has become a national model in the arts advocacy movement and has significantly expanded access to and involvement in the arts for all people in Minnesota,” said Ra Joy, Executive Director, Arts Alliance Illinois.

Many Accomplishments

In addition to Minnesota’s national leadership in arts funding, MCA advocated for and has protected the state’s “Percent for Art in Public Places” program, which acquires works of art to be exhibited in and around the public areas of state buildings.  MCA has also been a vigilant watchdog for the nonprofit arts sector, passing a sales tax exemption for nonprofit tickets and protecting other vital nonprofit tax exemptions. In addition, MCA has been active in protecting artists rights by opposing censorship and passing a consignment law to protect artists’ works if galleries go bankrupt.

Another signature accomplishment of was MCA’s role in the creation of the state’s eleven Regional Arts Councils which ensure access to the arts across the state.

Legacy Amendment a Historic Victory

Because of MCA, Minnesota is unique in the country for having dedicated funding for the arts in its state constitution. MCA led the cultural community in joining a coalition of hunting and angling, conservation, clean water and parks and trails advocates who passed the groundbreaking Legacy Amendment.

Just as MCA has never focused on just one part of the arts community or just one part of the state, MCA has never worked in isolation, looking for friends wherever they can find them. MCA sees how we are all connected and how by working together we can make things possible that would otherwise not be possible.  Because MCA works in coalitions every day, it was a natural next step to be a part of this larger Legacy coalition. As a direct result of MCA’s ability to work with a wide variety of partners, the citizens of Minnesota voted to ensure 25 years of dedicated funding for the nonprofit arts.

More Minnesotans now experience the arts because of the Legacy Amendment.

Since the passage of the Amendment in 2008, attendance at arts events in Minnesota has increased by 21%:

Audience Served 10,421,608 (2008) 12,612,314 (2012)

Arts Funding Now Touches People in Every Corner of the State

MCA, in partnership with the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils, has been successful in advocating policies that resulted in a border-to-border state funding system unparalleled in the nation. This system has enlivened Main Streets across the state by supporting all sizes and genres of the arts, from our largest world-class organizations and the many

different genres of mid-sized and small organizations to the individual artists who make it all happen and create the art in the first place. In turn, this results in access to the arts for all Minnesotans no matter where they live or what their circumstances.

“MN Citizens for the Arts is a national leader in the field of arts advocacy and citizen engagement,” confirms Donna S. Collins, Executive Director Ohio Arts Council. “They involve people of all ages and walks of life who are interested in supporting and participating in arts, culture, and arts education. The voice of all citizens is represented in the work of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts.”

Thriving Arts Scene Drives Economy

The nonprofit arts provide over $1 billion in annual economic impact in Minnesota. With over 42,000 artists according to the most recent census, Minnesota is a hub of artistic energy in the Midwest. Because of the interest of the citizens of Minnesota in having access to artistic opportunities, Minnesota has one and a half times the number of arts businesses per capita than all of our surrounding states, on par with California and New York. MCA’s work has fostered that density of artistic activity.

MCA produced two landmark studies,The Arts: A Driving Force in Minnesota’s Economy” (2006) and “Artists Count: An Economic Impact Study of Individual Artists in Minnesota” (2007) with several partners, including the McKnight Foundation, the Forum of Regional Arts Councils, and Springboard for the Arts. MCA is again working to tell the story of the impact of the arts on the state’s economy with a new project in coalition with the state’s arts funders, a “Creative Minnesota: The Health of the Nonprofit Arts and Culture” report that will be released at Arts Advocacy Day on Feb.19, 2015.

A Strong Leader in Citizen Engagement

MCA has trained thousands of citizens in civic activism, giving them the tools and know-how to become arts advocates at the state and local levels.  MCA annually organizes Arts Advocacy Day at the Minnesota Capitol which has brought as many as a thousand arts advocates to meet personally with their legislators to talk about the importance of the arts to their communities. At this event  citizens working with all different arts genres, metro and rural, of all size of arts organizations come together with one voice to meet with legislators.

This means that over time there have been more and more individual citizens who know how to advocate for the arts and are making their cities and small towns hotbeds of creative place making and arts activity. Whether it’s St. Paul, Minneapolis, Rochester, and Duluth (and their four arts-advocate mayors), or St. Cloud, Bemidji, Brainerd, Grand Marais, Lanesboro, Montevideo, Mankato, Red Wing and beyond, public and private civic leaders are all more aware of and working to use the arts to increase tourism and civic vitality.

Unusual Longevity and Impact

Organized in 1974, MCA is the oldest continuously operating statewide arts advocacy organization in the country. In forty years MCA has had only six Executive Directors, 21 Board Chairs, and two lobbyists; a longevity that is very unusual in the nonprofit sector and unheard of in arts advocacy organizations in many other states.

Award Winning

MCA received a 2003 Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Commitment, and in 2012 was recognized by Philanthropedia and Guidestar as “Top Nonprofit” for its role in increasing access to the arts in Minnesota.