Monday, January 31, 2011

MN Arts Advocacy Day : March 8th

The 2011 legislative session is here and with a $6.2 billion dollar budget deficit pending, protecting the arts in Minnesota remains vital. The arts are a vital aspect of Minnesota’s nation-leading quality of life. Minnesota advocates are seeking people to support Arts Advocacy Day on March 8th at the MN History Center and State Capitol.

It’s important your legislators hear how important the arts are to community members. The arts in Minnesota are some of the best in the world, but only because of strong support from people like you who remain engaged in civics.

From a Southeast Asian American perspective in Minnesota, funding for the arts made many of our historic events of recent years possible. For example, they funded the Lao American Writers Summit at the Loft Literary Center and the acclaimed Legacies of War: Refugee Nation exhibit at Intermedia Arts.

State arts support has helped expose us to the journeys of the African American, Native American and Latin American communities as well as mainstream art and artists in the US and from around the world. It's helped us build an understanding of each other's societies that wouldn't have been as easy if we relied solely on hopping into the restaurants and small businesses of these communities.

The Minnesota State Arts Board and the Regional Arts Council support helps keep organizations like Pangea World Theater, Mu Perfoming Arts, HARC and CHAT vital and helped many writers and artists like Saymoukda Vongsay, Mali Kouanchao, May Lee Yang and Katie Vang get some amazing projects off the ground and into the public eye. The Lao Women Dancers of Minnesota have also been funded in their efforts to develop a professional performance troupe.

As a state that is home to nationally recognized talents like NEA Heritage Fellow Bounxou Chanthraphone and other emerging artists, we need to make our voices heard that the arts play a vital role not only in preserving our culture but in helping our wider economic and educational development in our community.

It gives both our youth and elders a chance to learn and apply their skills and to contribute meaningfully to our society.

The state's enormous deficit is the biggest concern of Minnesota's legislators, and neither party has a particularly clear road map to solve. The arts are a tiny, tiny fraction of the state's budget but often gets targeted as the first to go, mistaken for luxuries, and not as economic drivers.

But for Southeast Asian artists in Minnesota, the arts spur significant economic activities. These range from space rental for rehearsals and performances to conducting business at local restaurants, hotels and supply stores, printers, service vendors and many other types of business.

With strategic care, we can foster a truly vibrant theater and independent film industry, as well as raise the bar for our expectations of Asian American literature and visual art. One that can take risks and embrace many different approaches to the pursuit of happiness and the extraordinary possibilities within a democratic society.

I could list many of the Lao, Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Karen artists who are growing their skills in Minnesota. In future years, we will hopefully see more work from the Khmu, Mien and Yao artists here, because that's a voice that's still underrepresented in Minnesota despite their numbers. But without robust support from both the legislature and private foundations, their growth as artists will move at a snail's pace.

In addition, our artists are learning exceptional skills in advocacy, the use of technology, logistics and other skills that serve them well in their professional and civic lives. Many other communities are also benefiting from Minnesota's support for the arts and by 2020, if not sooner we are on the road to an amazing and vibrant space to live, work, learn and relax in.

Please join your fellow Minnesotans in letting the legislature know how strong that support is! You can RSVP at or by calling 651-251-0868

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