Arts Policy Recommendations

A Personal Message from Senator Lourey:

The arts in Minnesota contribute enormously to our high quality of life, both culturally and economically.

Culturally, I know that arts enrich and give meaning to the human experience. Historically, I know that long after societies disappear, it is the art that survives. Economically, I know that the arts employ over 20,000 people in Minnesota (four times the mining industry and twice the highway construction industry). We know access to cultural opportunities is among the top 10 reasons businesses relocate. For all these reasons, support for the arts will be central to my administration.

In both my public and private life, I support the arts (my sister is a concert pianist and my college major was in art). I enjoy enormously attending and supporting the visual and performing arts whenever I can squeeze it in my schedule.

As Governor, I will dedicate a funding stream for the visual and performing arts, provide incentives for film, commercial and television production, and promote an arts curriculum in schools.

Summary of Senator Lourey's recommendations:

1. Dedicate a funding stream for the arts from sales tax. Part of the dedication could go to: arts enterprise zones, arts education, etc.

2. Promotion of arts. Coordinate arts events across Minnesota throughout the Department of Tourism and their website.

3. Create Arts Enterprise zones and arts-specific zoning--specific areas in every town that are protected, designated for artists, with rent control and or property tax rebates for landlords who rent at less than market value to artists for their residences, studios, etc.

4. Support the “Snowbate” so out of state film companies are refunded a part of the taxes they pay for production and post-production services that occur in Minnesota.

5. Promote arts education. Demand accountability on reporting of arts offerings in schools. Include arts education as part of the core curriculum. Mandate a minimum level of arts education for every student.

And in more detail:

Taken together, the arts in Minnesota are not only a vital cultural resource, they form a major industry in the state, providing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the communities they serve. According to Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, the not-for-profit sector alone represents at least $838.5 million in economic activity, and provides 22,000 full-time jobs. The for-profit sector, including commercial theatre, the music recordings, advertising art and photography, and the film industry, adds millions more dollars and thousands more jobs. As it is decentralized, the arts industry is less visible, but the collapse of the arts in Minnesota would be as disastrous as the closing of the Ford plant or the loss of Northwest Airlines. The government of the State of Minnesota therefore has an obligation to insure the continued health and growth of the arts, including the following general areas.

DEDICATED FUNDING - Currently, the arts budget is approximately $.8.5 million, which is .0006% of the total budget, or less than $2 per capita per year. We propose increasing arts funding by dedicating a portion of state sales tax to support the arts. Funding would be used for grants to individual arts organizations for specific projects (matched by private and corporate donations), and the state would also support public art by Minnesota artists in cities and towns across the state. Funding would also go towards the following specific areas.

ARTS ENTERPRISE ZONES - Grants would go to cities and counties for arts development projects. These “Arts Districts,” or “Arts Corridors,” would incorporate studio and performing spaces and affordable housing for artists. Landlords would receive property tax rebates for renting at less-than-market value to artists for studios and housing. The state should also support bonding when municipalities wish to construct or restore buildings for use as arts venues. The creation of arts zones would be especially encouraged in cities and towns in Greater Minnesota.

PROMOTION - The State Arts Board should work closely with the Department of Tourism to promote arts tourism both within and outside the state. Theatre tours, gallery tours, and music tours should be promoted, in cooperation with the retail and hospitality industries. As above, attractions outside the Twin Cities metro area would get special attention and promotion, and the many city and county festivals should always have a strong arts component. The Governor should use the bully pulpit to promote the arts, including a “Governor¹s Gallery Opener,” “Governor¹s Theatre Opener,” and “Governor¹s Concert Opener,” to attract media attention similar to the “Fishing Opener.” The state should also institute a “Minnesota Laureate” program to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the arts in the state.

EDUCATION - In a recent speech to the National Press Club, singer Al Jarreau noted that if a young person has a pair of tap shoes, or a book of poems, or a play script, or a paintbrush, or a musical instrument in his hand, it is unlikely that he would also have a gun in his hand. The arts are not frills or extras. They are as important in developing students into good citizens the primary purpose of education as grammar, civics, science, and math. Therefore, the Department of Education should direct that the arts be included in all descriptions of core curriculum in schools throughout the state, and school districts should require all the arts (music, visual art, drama & dance, creative writing) in grades K-8. In grades 9-12, students should be required to take at least four semesters of arts electives as a prerequisite for graduation from high school, and funds should be available to ensure strong extracurricular arts programs in grades 7-12. We must also demand accountability to insure that our arts offerings are of high quality; but since the arts do not lend themselves easily to evaluation by standardized testing, innovative methods of evaluating arts offerings in the schools must be instituted.

SUPPORT THE FILM INDUSTRY - The film industry is unique among the arts in Minnesota, in that projects are usually organized as for-profit ventures, ranging from extremely low-budget independent films to multimillion-dollar Hollywood movies. In the 1990s, under an enlightened administration, the film industry flourished, led by the many Hollywood movies shot here, including “The Mighty Ducks,” “Grumpy Old Men,” and “Fargo.” Of late, however, our film industry has been in serious decline, due in large part to our failure to compete with other states in providing incentives for films to shoot here. For example, “North Country,” a story set in Minnesota, shot only the most essential locations here, and the rest of the film was shot in New Mexico, due to that state¹s aggressive efforts to attract business. We seek to restore our once-prominent position as a film center. First, we must fully fund the Minnesota Film & Television Board, which is a business development organization, not an arts advocacy group. The Film Board must once again have sufficient resources to attract films to the state. Second, we must continue to support the Snowbate program which will provide tax incentives to film projects. We must also look at the additional incentives offered by other states and offer competitive inducements. These tax law changes must be accompanied by a vigorous effort by the Governor to meet personally with film industry executives, to make clear that Minnesota is once again serious about becoming a film center. Finally, to encourage home-grown film production, public and private funds should be raised for a world-class film school at the University of Minnesota.

CREATING THE RIGHT CLIMATE - For the arts to be more central to our civic life, we should include an arts perspective in all our thinking and planning. Therefore, artists should be included on advisory panels of all kinds, not just those dealing specifically with the arts. Finally, in his new book, The Flight of the Creative Class, author Richard Florida warns that among those factors needed to attract and hold innovative thinkers -- including artists -- is a climate of tolerance. Minnesota must maintain its reputation as an open-minded place that welcomes all creative people, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or affectional preference.