Minneapolis bestows awards to artists, but no cash

Tonight at 7pm the Minneapolis Arts Commission will present its second annual MAC awards at the Uptown Art Fair.

Awardees in four categories will each recieve citations signed by the mayor, and the right to use the MAC logo on their press materials or website.

And that’s it.

It wasn’t always this way. Eight years ago the city of Minneapolis had its own Office of Cultural Affairs, and granted $30,000 a year to individual artists and small arts organizations. But in 2002 the city cut its Cultural Affairs division down to two people, and its funding for artists went away. Minneapolis Mosaic, a summer event celebrating the arts, is entirely funded through private sources.

Minneapolis Arts Commission member Tamara Nadel says it’s a paradox:

Minneapolis has such a reputation as being a center for arts and culture, for the city not to fund these activities is a little bit embarrassing.

Minneapolis does have an arts budget of $365,000. But the largest portion of that goes to commissioning and maintaining public works of art displayed on city land. Compare Minneapolis to other cities its size around the country, and the difference in their financial commitment to the arts is startling.

Minneapolis – population 765,000; $365,000 spent on the arts in 2009

Nashville – population 619,000, $2.7 million spent on the arts in 2009

Wichita – population 433,000, $3.9 million spent on the arts in 2009

Now look at how much the cities below give out in grants to artists each year:

Seattle – $225,000

Kansas City – $500,000

Oakland – $1.4 million

Portland – $1.6 million

Minneapolis – $0

Minneapolis Arts Commission member Tamara Nadel says the MAC is working to change that. For the second year in a row the MAC is proposing the city fund a grant program for emerging artists.

How much is the commission asking for? Just $8,000.

Nadel says she knows adding grants to the city’s budget is a hard sell in this economy, but she thinks it’s a worthwhile investment.

I think we’re very lucky to have the MN State Arts Board and the Regional Councils. People around the country are in awe of Minnesota for what we’ve done with the Legacy Fund, but what’s missing is that giving at the local level. The more localized the funding, the more it connects artists and arts organizations to their communities.


Nadel says she knows Mayor Rybak is a big supporter of the arts, and that he’s well aware of how important the arts are to the economic development of the city. She’s hopeful he’ll take action on the grants soon.

The longer we wait, I think we run a real risk of losing artists who might move over to St. Paul because they feel more supported and valued there.

Nadel says things looked promising for the MAC proposal last year, but then the economy took another dip, and suddenly the city was looking at eliminating one of the two staff positions dedicated to arts and culture. So the commission stopped pushing its proposal in favor of lobbying to keep the staff position.

Tonight’s Minneapolis Arts Commission awards are as follows:

The Award for Community Involvement in Public Art goes to Reynaldo Diaz and Connie Beckers for their project “Awakening,” a stained glass window that celebrates the plants and animals of Loring Park. Located at the Loring Park Community Arts Center.

The Award for Celebrating the City through Public Art goes to artist Sean Smuda for his project “Hopes and Dreams,” which is made up of 20 portraits depicting the city’s diversity.

The Award for Integration of Public Art in Private Development goes to Joshua Sartantitis and Forecast Public Art for “Loring Water Lilies” on the Loring ramp, a mural inspired by Monet’s paintings of water lilies.

This year the MAC added a fourth category, the Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts and the Community. That award goes to Ten Thousand Things Theater, a company which brings high quality theater to homeless shelters, prisons, rehab clinics and housing projects.