The state of the arts in a state shutdown

The Minnesota Historical Society… the Perpich Center for Arts Education… the Minnesota State Arts Board… these are just a few of the cultural organizations that are closed today due to the state government shutdown.

Some venues are partially affected by the shutdown – for instance the Minnesota Zoo is closed, but its summer concert series continues.

Others narrowly missed being shut down, such as Interact, a center for visual and performing artists with disabilities. The government pays Interact to mentor and care for 125 adults with a variety of physical and mental challenges.

Initially, care providers such as Interact were not considered “essential services,” and so for weeks the organization prepared for a shutdown.

It wasn’t until a staff member read the court ruling on MPR.org on Wednesday that they realized that they would still be paid for their work. Interact’s Sally Moore called the Department of Human Services this morning just to make sure.

The past few weeks have felt like a ride at Valley Fair. We encouraged staff to find summer jobs, and so they did. So we’re now working that out. We’ve just lost weeks worth of productivity.

Moore says the budget negotiations have been so secretive that it was almost impossible to get any information via official channels.

Executive Director Jeanne Calvit says the staff was planning on working anyway, because they couldn’t not serve their clients.

These folks are living in group homes that are not staffed – we can’t just send them home, because they don’t have people there to look after them.

For a while the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona was concerned it would have to move elsewhere, because its annual festival takes place on the campus of Winona State University. Fortunally MNSCU is still up and running, and GRSF’s Doug Scholz-Carlson says the run should be unaffected.

While the Minnesota State Arts Board is shut down, the 11 regional arts councils it partners with are remaining open as long as they can.

Jeff Prauer of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council says his office will continue operation with cash on hand, which should last for 3 to 4 months.

We have an Arts Activities Support program deadline on July 11, with panel reviews in mid-September. We will continue to process those applications in the hope that the shutdown would be over by the end of September. Since we don’t provide general operating support, I can’t tell you at this point which specific organizations would be affected.

The other regional councils have varying cash reserves; some will be able to stay open for a month, others up to six months.

For more on how the shutdown is affecting the arts, click here to read reporting by Susannah Schouweiler at mnartists.org.

For more on the shutdown in general, click here.

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