Arts funding vs. Vikings Stadium

One of the sources of funding being considered for a new Vikings Stadium is Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment.

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Tom Powers works on a pottery piece while participating in a Veterans in the Arts class at the Northern Clay Center. (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar took a look at how the money is being used now, and what programs might be lost if Legacy funds were to be reallocated for the stadium.

For larger groups, including CLIMB Theatre in the Twin Cities, the Legacy funds helped them make it through the recession — and even expand when some traditional funding sources dried up.

“It has kept us alive,” said Peg Wetli, CLIMB’s executive director.

CLIMB was forced to cut staff salaries in recent years as libraries and school districts cut their programming budgets. The group, which had a $1.1 million budget in the last year, has four full-time staffers, three part-time staffers and hires actors for its productions.

CLIMB has used the funds to perform plays about bullying in schools and has brought theater to preschool children to help them with cognitive and social skills. CLIMB also worked with communities and performed plays about reintegration for troops returning from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We overcame the barrier of, ‘oh the theater is for the elite, educated and people with money,'” she said. “We overcame the geographic barrier. We were there in people’s communities and we performed for free.”

Dunbar’s story also looks at such organizations as Veterans in the Arts, Blue Earth Valley Concert Association, Staples Area Men’s Chorus, and Wadena Madhatters Community Theatre. You can read her full report here.