1. ARTS CUT BY 32%

1. ARTS CUT BY 32%

It was a hard fight. But it appears to be over. The conference committee with jurisdiction over the arts this weekend agreed to the Republican House position, a 32% cut in arts funding in Minnesota. This means overall state funding for the arts will decrease from $12,616,000 per year to $8,593,000 per year for the next two years.

You may recall that Governor Pawlenty proposed a 40% cut to the arts. The House committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Gunther, proposed reducing the cut to 32%. The Senate committee, chaired by Sen. Dallas Sams, proposed reducing the Governor’s cut to the arts to 16%. When the deal was struck on “no new taxes” the committee was left with no money to soften the cuts, leaving the Republican House’s 32% cut as the outcome.

While the overall arts appropriation was cut by 32%, it included a 60% cut to the state money that supports the Minnesota State Arts Board’s (MSAB) operations budget, which means they will have to lay off some of their staff. It is terrible that these good people join the ranks of those already laid off by arts organizations due to the bad economy, and who will probably still be laid off by arts organizations as a result of these cuts. The MSAB’s grants and the Regional Arts Councils were cut by slightly less than 30%.

State arts funding gets out to every Minnesota county via the grants and services of the eleven Regional Arts Councils and the Minnesota State Arts Board. (To see a list of grantees from the last couple of years: http://www.mtn.org/mca/List.html). A cut of this size means that access to the arts will decrease all across the state. This cut will affect every corner of Minnesota’s arts community. There will be smaller and fewer grants, funding fewer artists and arts organizations, funding fewer programs and services, decreasing access to the arts for Minnesotans all across the state. Small organizations will have less access to grants through the Regional Arts Councils. Individual artists funded by Regional Arts Council and State Arts Board grants will be affected too. Large and medium sized organizations will have less grant resources for all programs and services, which will reduce access to the arts for Minnesotans at all levels.

This comes on top of the already tough funding climate for the arts in Minnesota. Our February survey of the stateâs arts organizations found that 65% were predicting deficits this year, even after layoffs, wage freezes, and cuts in programs.

In my fourteen years of working on arts funding at the state legislature, I have never seen such a passionate, energized, committed and unified arts community fighting together for the arts. But for this effort, who knows how much worse it could have been. The fact that this was the outcome for us, (despite1,000 people coming to the Capitol for Arts Advocacy Day, 2,000+ people signing the arts petition, and hundreds of other people writing to and meeting independently with their legislators), tells you what a terrible legislative climate we had this year. Thank you to everyone who helped in this fight. Without your support, it could have been much worse. We are fortunate to be part of such a wonderful arts community.

-Sheila Smith, MCA Executive Director


While this outcome for the arts is very bad, we are but one of the many victims of this bad legislative session. There have been terrible losses for other cultural groups as well. I am disgusted to have to report the following:

The Humanities Commission lost all of their state funding for the next two years. (State funding covered about a third of their budget).
The Minnesota Film Board was cut by 82%, leaving them with just $350,000/year.
The Minnesota Historical Society was cut by $4.3 million dollars a year, a loss of 23%.
The Science Museum of Minnesota got a 30% cut, reducing their annual funding to $750,000/year.
The Minnesota Zoo got a 10% cut, with an ability to charge new fees.
At this time, it looks like public broadcasting will get cuts too, but their bill is not yet finished.
In addition, the bonding bill is also not yet done, and it is still a question as to whether or not any arts projects will be included.


Some good news this session is the amazing win of Kathleen Maloney and the Minnesota Alliance for Arts in Education, who succeeding in making the arts a core academic subject in Minnesotaâs schools. Legislators were determined to dump the Profile of Learning (which included the arts) but had not agreed on what would replace it until this weekend. With friends in the Senate, Kathleen managed to get the arts designated as a core academic subject in the new standards. This means that schools will be required to provide all students with access to an arts education. Congratulations to Kathleen and to MAAE!