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Celebrating the Impact of Public Arts Funding with MN Citizens for the Arts and Minnesota State Arts Board

Jan 26, 2024 09:59AM ● By Content Editor
Greg Mueller - Inspiration Exchange. Photo provided.

By Tom Morse - Submitted article - January 26, 2024

“Cook County and Grand Marais are recognized across the state as leaders in the arts,” said Sue Gens, Executive Director for the Minnesota State Arts Board. “The arts, as a portion of your economy, is only behind St. Paul and Minneapolis. What this community has accomplished is remarkable.” This affirmation of the work of local artists and arts organizations opened the morning’s public listening session, which was attended by several local artists as well as staff from Visit Cook County and North House Folk School. Caroline Taiwo from the McKnight Foundation and Joe Bagnoli, Lobbyist for MN Citizens for the Arts, were also in attendance. 

The meeting was hosted by MN Citizens for the Arts, which advocates for public support of art across the state of Minnesota, and the Minnesota State Arts Board, which oversees the allocations of those public funds. Sarah Fossen, Executive Director of MN Citizens for the Arts, shared the important role that Legacy Funding plays in making the arts a vibrant part of Minnesota’s economy. “This past year the state allocated 100 million dollars to arts legacy projects and in return, those create billions of dollars in economic activity. The arts play a vital role both in improving the quality of life and in helping Minnesotans thrive,” shared Fossen.

After hosting almost 20 listening sessions across the state, Fossen and Gens shared that they observed several recurring themes, with housing being a dominant part of the conversation in every community. 

Local artists shared their challenges in finding artistic space in town, and that unlike many communities with former warehouses and large spaces that could be converted to studios, most artists in Grand Marais have to build their own solutions in their homes. Fossen advocated for the community to ensure that the arts are considered at the start of major projects instead of at the end of a design process. “Adding space for artists, or utilizing storefronts for pop-up shops, or even including artists in the conceptual process for new construction can help to make a more interesting and successful community,” stated Fossen, “This community is already known regionally for its artists and organizations, and should continue building on that strength.”

Gens and Fossen also praised local Representative Roger Skraba and his role on the appropriations committee related to the arts as a real “champion” and Senator Grant Hauschild as an ally to the artistic communities of the North Shore and Iron Range. “Make sure you let your representatives know how much you value the arts in your community because you have two people who will listen and advocate for you,” said Fossen. 

In Cook County, the Arts Board directly supports the Grand Marais Art Colony and North House Folk School. Additional support through the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council has been granted to Great Expectations School, Good Harbor Hill Players, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society, the Hovland Arts Festival, the North Shore Music Association, and dozens of local artists and artisans. Legacy Funding will need a statewide referendum for renewal before 2034, and is allocated 33 percent to the clean water fund, 33 percent to the outdoor heritage fund, 19.75 percent to the arts and cultural heritage fund, and 14.25 percent to the parks and trails fund.

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