Does new restriction on MN State Arts Board grants amount to “artist shaming?”

As artists continue to reel from the news that the Minnesota State Arts Board can no longer fund out of state travel, TC Daily Planet arts writer Jay Gabler says he’s more surprised by how the decision went down in the state legislature.

In a recent commentary Gabler said that “for a state that prides itself on having a strong arts scene, in this instance Minnesotans acted like people who think that making art is a complete waste of time and money.”

Yes, let’s call this what it is: artist shaming. This directive came down because Minnesotans, when told that artists who say travel is important to their careers are full of s**t, believed it. This change happened because Minnesotans, when told that any means of evaluating artistic merit is completely arbitrary and shouldn’t be taken seriously, agreed. This change happened because Minnesotans, hearing the suggestion that artists at the highest levels are essentially conspiring to hook each other up with state funds on the basis of the fictional concept of “furthering their artistic careers” (that must be a fictional concept, since apparently all art is arbitrary, so how can an artistic career be “furthered”?), said amen, cut ’em off!

If we really don’t trust the Minnesota State Arts Board to make defensible decisions regarding arts funding, then let’s have a discussion about that and dismantle it. If, however, we do trust the MSAB—and I think that having recently passed the Legacy Amendment, we do—let’s allow them to do the job we assembled them to do and not allow knee-jerk artist-shamers to throw tacks under their tires.

You can read the full commentary here.

  • Wendy Knox

    Yes, it DOES amount to artist-shaming. The new restrictions are an infuriating and embarrassing piece of legislation. While Sheila Smith’s piece on MN Playlist explains how this ruling was able to pass coming so late in the game of the session and out of the blue (, it is short-sighted, provincial and places unconscionable restrictions on the use of arts funds. The arts are a significant economic engine in Minnesota; the reputation of our community has been hard-won and built up over many years. We have a rich and diverse community of artists and arts organizations based in Minnesota, and we have a fantastic array of visiting artists and groups that tour through our cities. The exchange between our resident artists and those passing through is invaluable and is no small factor in the evolution of the local arts scene. The ability to travel and take advantage of further training with these artists, or to tour MN-made work to other cities and enhance our reputation as a first-class arts center should not be restricted by this ill-reasoned legislation. The Minnesota State Arts Board and the regional arts councils HAVE a process in place for sussing out specious requests for arts funding: the panel review. These panels, which I have served on with so many other smart, established arts and arts managers, review each proposal, as Gabler states, and there is a very clear system of standards, checks and balances. The question that Gabler raises–do we, as Minnesotans, support the arts?–has already been answered and he is correct is his assessment that we should allow the Minnesota State Arts Board to do its job rather allowing erroneous charges by a misinformed conservative blogger, reported by an irresponsible media outlet to interfere in a process that has already been established by law. The legislative ruling is unnecessary and infuriating. I can only wonder what real issue we were being distracted from as this one was waved in our direction.