Saturday, June 22, 2013

Quoted by Minnesota Public Radio

I was quoted recently on Minnesota Public Radio in the article "Artists reeling from new restrictions on Minnesota State Arts Board grants"

In other forums, I've expressed more of my perspective in expanded detail. What are some things I think we should bear in mind?

Many of our nationally-recognized, award-winning artists had a major breakthrough in their craft AFTER they were able to travel outside of Minnesota to see how other artists are creating work. And they returned to MN and continue to be a vital part of Minnesota's artistic fabric, building much of our artistic infrastructure today.

Many are creating work that has since drawn in more than enough visitors, resources and support not only for their work but other Minnesota artists to vindicate the initial investment in their training and networking.

Will we now also call for rules forbidding state funding for trade delegations abroad or nationally? Should our legislators avoid national training and policy briefings outside of our state? If we're tightening our belts, we need to do it across the board.

The majority of recipients spend their grants investing in their development so that their work commands higher rates, which in turn benefits Minnesota which gains more tax. In that process, we see many others benefit from artists participating actively in the economy with an entrepreneurial spirit.

From food vendors and catering, printing companies, technicians, space and technical support rentals, and other suppliers, professional and emerging artists engage many sectors and we all benefit economically from artists engaged with the public.

Beyond an issue of economics, I would particularly note one key benefit has been to potentially enable many artists from refugee communities and elsewhere to re-connect with key artisans and culture-makers, particularly the elderly abroad in their former homelands. To speak with those whose stories would otherwise be lost permanently under present conditions. These Minnesota artists have been laying the bridge for future intercultural exchanges both within Minnesota and abroad.

What has made this process even more positive is that many of the artists enabled by Minnesota arts funding in the past are not typically from the elite strata of their cultures. It is not merely the wealthy whose stories are heard, but everyone's, and we all grow from this. I would hope our legislators appreciate the distinctive role Minnesota has held enabling a truly democratized perspective in the arts of so many diverse cultures. Everyone is getting a voice. Some, like the Hmong, for the first time in 4,000 years.

I'm glad to see our legislators making an effort to ensure everyone is being responsible and accountable. That's a fair expectation. But we owe it to ourselves to review the studies and the rationale for the passage of the Legacy Amendment in the first place.

There are practical and cultural reasons this amendment matters, with amazing opportunities and some risks. But it would be myopic to think the Minnesota economy and way of life will grow by encouraging provincialism.

But more to follow...

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