Bullets and Hooks For The Arts!

Amid all the press about the Obama victory last week and the extremely slim margin of votes separating Norm Coleman and Al Franken in Minnesota, you may have missed the news that Minnesotans passed a constitutional amendment to increase the sales tax 3/8 of 1% to fund the cleaning and maintenance of Minnesotan lakes, parks and wildlife areas and to fund the arts.

Arts Go Fishing And Catch Some Money
You may be wondering, as I was, how the arts and culture became a part of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. According to a couple sources, sport fishermen and hunters found a common cause with the arts. On the Pioneer Press website, Chris Niskanen writes (my emphasis)

“A small part of the general fund (about $10 million) goes toward arts funding (out of the state’s $34 billion budget), but about one-third was cut during the state’s budget crisis in 2003. The hunting and fishing community at first opposed arts being added to the amendment, but saw arts supporters had similar arguments for funding. The alliance ultimately helped the amendment pass the Legislature and, perhaps, will help it pass on Nov. 4.”

Bait Your Hook With A Powerful Lure-Arts and Culture

But the quote I really liked came from an article Artsjournal.com linked to in which columnist Jay Weiner writes,

“As it was, the pioneers of the amendment idea — the sportsmen with bullets and hooks — were wary enough of the arts being included … until they saw the political power of the statewide arts and cultural organizations.”

My first thought upon reading this was that if this is true, the Minnesota arts community should be the envy of the rest of the country. Every state should be lucky enough to have an arts community with enough political clout to help get a constitutional amendment passed. Of course, that influence didn’t magically appear, the state arts community would have been working on cultivating it over the course of years and probably decades.

If you have any ambition of trying something like this in your state, read Niskanen’s piece which addresses the arguments for and against the amendment.

You may also want to read Weiner’s article which addresses the apparently mocking suggestion that the Minnesota Vikings should have gotten on board the amendment so they could get a stadium. Weiner points out first that as fervent as sports fans in Minnesota are, they never seem to rally behind their teams politically. The other thing he mentions is that berating the arts and parks people perpetuates an environment which keeps sports fans from forming coalitions. Some interesting thoughts on the whole from a sports writer.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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