The poeple voted yes, but the governor isn’t listening

State lawmakers and the governor are already looking into tapping into arts funding. Don’t let them.

While weâÄôre working to clean our waters with a new amendment, Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs proposed budget leaves the artists swimming upstream. On Nov. 4, the election of our first black president might have overshadowed another large feat for Minnesota: We passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. For those who arenâÄôt familiar, the amendment raises taxable sales three-eighths of 1 percent until 2034. In addition to providing funding for water and environmental conservation, the amendment was also a feat for state arts programs, as it will garner approximately $59 million for arts and arts education in the coming years. We voted yes, right? Well, maybe not. As most heard, last week Gov. Pawlenty proposed a budget to the Legislature, but unlike a good haircut, our bangs might be asymmetrical by the time our trim is complete. While weâÄôre working to clean our waters with funds from the new amendment and catch up on the stateâÄôs deficit, the artists will continue to swim upstream. Indeed, Dominic Papatola said on Minnesota Public Radio last week , with the proposal, the arts âÄúfair like a dandelion in front of a steam roller.âÄù The Minnesota State Arts Board is MinnesotaâÄôs main mechanism for funding arts. Pawlenty aims to cut 33 percent of the BoardâÄôs funding in 2010, and 66 percent in 2011. Thereafter, he intends to leave the organization to fend for itself, spinning its responsibility as a nonprofit organization rather than a state agency. The State Art BoardâÄôs mission is to stimulate and encourage the creation, performance and appreciation for arts in the state. And our arts thrive : 67 percent of Minnesotans have attended an art event âÄî a gallery show or theater production âÄî in the last year. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the stateâÄôs population participate in an art âÄî from cross-stitching to earning a livable sum in the Minneapolis dance community. Additionally, artists have more than $1 billion in economic annual impact, not to mention the $98 million spent by audiences. Minnesota has been named one of the most livable states in the nation by CQ Press , mostly because of its rich access to the arts. Five of MinnesotaâÄôs top tourist attractions are arts organizations: the Walker Art Center, the Guthrie, the Ordway, Orchestra Hall and the ChildrenâÄôs Theatre. When we send any of these organizations on tour to Broadway, Europe or Asia, the state is going to gain respect and prestige. Accordingly, it would be shameful to place the dependency of the arts on the kindness of donors under a budget squeeze. Ticket sales are dropping and supporting foundations that would normally donate sums of money no longer have such an ample supply. What can be said if state aid falls too? The repercussions affect the State Arts Board to the high schools. The Perpich Center for the Arts, a state-funded school, is said to meet a similar fate. Cuts, more cuts, and after two years, a transition to becoming a charter school, all while the state washes the red paint from its hands. According to The State Arts Board, 95 percent of Minnesotans believe the arts are important or an essential part of the overall education of Minnesota children. The dismantling of a state art school contradicts a basic belief of most Minnesotans. Further, artists as a whole possess some of the most sought-after skills in the general workforce. Artists are problem solvers: They come up with creative solutions and are comfortable working collaboratively or alone. Artists are diligent in their crafts. They are able to keep a tight schedule and utilize organizational skills. Dancers and actors in particular are required to schedule rehearsals, budget their own shows and write grants to secure funds for their production. Effective grant writing, of course, means effective communication. These skills are intuitive to many artists; they are sought after in the traditional work place, and rarely can be effectively taught. Hence, there remains a great importance in maintaining a school that encourages these developments in young people. While the Legislature is still debating the details of the Legacy Amendment that voters approved in November, itâÄôs clear its funding will not have the impact it could have originally made with the new proposed cuts. The idea of the amendment was to augment existing structures rather than replace them. The executive director of Conservation Minnesota, Paul Austin, spoke of this with the Pioneer Press last week. âÄúThe common sense question is if you cut 25 percent from something âĦ isnâÄôt it pretty obvious you are using the new money for the old?âÄù The Star Tribune was sure to remind readers last week that the budget was only a blueprint, and that months of negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Legislature are ahead. So, other than raise a riot, what do you do? Advocate. Conveniently, Feb. 24 is our stateâÄôs Arts Advocacy Day. Take the time to write to legislators, or the governor himself. Give yourself permission to visit the capitol on Feb. 24. Though the election has passed, continue to vote yes. Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]