Arts funding after a regime change

In light of recent elections, and the upcoming session to deal with the state’s $6.2 billion deficit, I wondered how all of this could impact the arts. To get some context, I asked Sheila Smith with Minnesota Citizens for the Arts for her thoughts. Here’s what she had to say:

1. How do you think the recent shift in power at the state capitol will effect funding for the arts?

There are a lot of changes at the Capitol this year, with the GOP taking over both the House and Senate, and although the recount is still ongoing, it looks like DFL’r Mark Dayton will probably take over the Governor’s office. We’ve had divided government for the past many years, and with these changes we will still have divided government. However, it’s still too early to know how these changes will affect the arts.

The bigger issue is that the state has a gruesome $5-6 billion deficit (the exact number will be known this afternoon) which will be the driving issue throughout the next session. How the new leadership on both sides deals with this issue will affect everything the state does, with the arts being just one of the many issues affected.

We’re still not sure which committee will oversee arts funding, we’ll hopefully know in a few weeks, so it will be easier to assess then the environment we’ll be in.

The arts have always been a non-partisan issue, and we have friends on both sides of the aisle. Many of those friends remain at the Capitol. It will be up to the arts community to continue to communicate with their elected officials about the importance of the arts and about the voter’s intention in passing the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

2. Keeping the $6 billion dollar deficit in mind, how do you plan to argue for continued support of the arts (especially now that the Legacy Amendment provides a dedicated source of funding)?

The arts are a proven economic development tool that provide over 30,000 jobs in Minnesota. With the chief concern of all policy makers being job growth and economic impact, we can make a very strong case that the arts need to be a part of the picture that helps solve Minnesota’s economic problems. Minnesota’s arts community is a strong beacon that draws visitors to Minnesota’s restaurants and hotels. We are part of the picture of Minnesota’s future economic vitality.

3. Why is it that the arts tends to be viewed as “optional” when it comes to funding?

In 2008, 56% of Minnesotans voted to put the arts into our state’s constitution. Minnesotans do not view the arts as optional.

So what do you think of the current political climate, the deficit, and how it may or may not affect funding for the arts? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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