Tevlin: Politicians, artists butt heads over grant money

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2013 - 9:03 PM

In 2009 Andrew Wykes was invited to become fellow at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in County Mayo, Ireland, which works with internationally acclaimed landscape artists.

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krisbigalkJun. 25, 13 7:23 AM

As a writer who was previously awarded two Minnesota State Arts Board grants, I'd like to point out that artists in all disciplines benefit from traveling and sharing their work. My grants allowed me to attend national writers conferences, work with well-known writers, and share my work with readers and writers from across the country. It was a good investment of taxpayer money, in that it drew attention to the fact that Minnesota has a vibrant writing and arts community that is producing work that deserves to be a part of the national conversation. These experiences also led to the publication of my book, which generated sales for Minnesota bookstores, where most copies were sold. One thing not mentioned in this column was that in the past, money coming from the federal government, the National Endowment for the Arts, was used to fund this travel for Minnesota artists, and now the Minnesota legislature is limiting those funds. It's not right that Minnesota should be dictating how federal taxpayer funds are spent. That should be a decision left to the Arts Board and the federal government. These restrictions on grant money will essentially guarantee that the only artists traveling out of Minnesota (or in to Minnesota) to represent us in the arts will be members of the elite "2%" who can pay their own way. This is just another example of elitism working its way into public policy.

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bstndr2010Jun. 25, 13 9:51 AM

In a time where prioritization of NEEDS must be done in terms of government spending, WANTS like this program need to get the ax...

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ruphinaJun. 25, 1311:17 AM

What an great idea? We could send architects to Greece to be inspired by the Parthenon. Let's send all the Corp of Engineer guys to Italy to study the Roman Aqueducts. How about sending NSA guys to England to study Hadrian's wall? How about sending accountants to Belgium to study the Euro? Fracking specialists to the Sahara to study sand? The possibilities are boundless! Sarcasm aside, why should artists be any different than the rest of us? What kind of elitist superiority complex defective gene did they get that makes them think they are so precious that they think the rest of us should support them with our labor? Bill G.

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sblodenJun. 25, 1312:36 PM

Can any of this be done at a fraction of the price through the internet?

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krisbigalkJun. 25, 13 1:48 PM

My point is that making blanket restrictions is bound to have negative consequences for our state and for artists. Instead of banning all travel and all out of state artists, how about coming up with some guidelines that require artists to explain how the travel will benefit the state of Minnesota, forward the reputation of Minnesota artists, and/or create income for the state of Minnesota? Most artists I know did not travel to exotic locations; we went to conferences in Vermont, New York, Tennessee, and Chicago, and we networked with major players in the larger literary community, enhancing the reputation of Minnesota and Minnesota artists. If there are artists who aren't using travel towards these ends, then they shouldn't be getting funding to travel. But to ban it for everyone is extremely short-sighted, and makes Minnesota look like a narrow-minded, backward place.

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rshacklefordJun. 25, 13 2:39 PM

(article quote): "Erin Sayer, a muralist, argues the small amount of money involved in travel grants makes other cities aware of “flyover land” as a cultural oasis, and brings them here." ---- But Dayton, Rybak, Mondale, Wilf, Goodell, Rooney, etc. fixed that problem for us by stealing hundreds of millions from the taxpayers to ensure that we will not remain a flyover land. Ooops, their fix will work as well as the sales of etabs has and our crummy New Jersey Vikings division 2 NFL team. If artists cannot travel, then DNR biologists have to stay in this state and cannot invite others to visit, right? Minneapolis, Detroit, Minot, Winnipeg are all in the same category.

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ruphinaJun. 25, 13 2:46 PM

Again- why should artists get tax money coerced from the working stiff at the point of a gun to further their career? Why not send hardware store owners to China to tour fastener plants? Just what is so SPECIAL about an artist that requires us to provide welfare? Bill G.

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freedubayJun. 25, 13 6:10 PM

I have written several publications based on my works and travels. I'm far, far from being wealthy or well off but yet I managed to pay for this all with my own money that I've earned. I must be doing something wrong. I'm sure every writer or artist thinks their work is the best but it should pay for its own way. Even with my meager sales I don't expect a handout. I'm just glad that the few that purchase my stuff like it.

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scathachJun. 25, 13 9:21 PM

Bill - You're positing a duality that simply doesn't exist. Artists ARE working stiffs. We earn a living just like everyone else. We wait tables, work in offices, teach, manage our own businesses. We pay taxes just like everyone else - and more than many, since much of our income comes from direct sales or independent contractor work, rather than as employees of a larger organization. If we're very, VERY lucky, we can make a living from our art. If we're normal, we work 40 hours or more a week to support the work that we really want to be doing. You're going to have to look long and hard to find an artist who thinks they're "special," or that they deserve a handout from the state government simply on the merits of being an artist. The state has decided that a certain amount of money should go to supporting the arts in Minnesota, and a small amount of that money has been allocated for individual artist development. If you don't agree with that basic premise, then you have a bigger problem than the one that's really at issue here. The reason the arts community is so upset about this new restriction is that there doesn't seem to be any real reason for it, other than capricious whim and a legislature that's more scared of losing political capital than really understanding the purpose of the grant program or how it's being used. There is already a stringent review process in place to vet the projects that artists hope to get sponsorship for. There's accountability built into the system. These grants are used by artists who are seeking to further their training, raise their profile, make professional connections, or bring important resources back into the state to engage and enrich the larger economy. We've essentially just been told that these contributions we make are no longer valuable to our elected representatives, and that they would rather see our rich culture stagnate than risk being criticized by people who don't really understand the program. The arts are a multi-billion dollar industry in Minnesota, and actively working to make our work LESS relevant to the nation and the world rather than more seems extremely short-sighted. Minnesota shows it values its resources by investing money in them. Just as we all foot the bill through our taxes for the Mayo Clinic, the JOBZ program, our sports teams, airport, etc., we support the arts. Let's let the artists decide what that means, rather than the politicians.

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