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Arts community say funding cuts would hurt economic development

Arts community say funding cuts would hurt economic development

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Advocates for the arts in South Dakota say Gov. Mike Rounds' proposal to eliminate state funding for the South Dakota Arts Council is an economic development mistake.

The 1,300-plus people who came to downtown Rapid City last weekend for the grand opening of the newly renovated Dahl Arts Center is exhibit No. 1 in that argument, according to Linda Anderson, executive director of the Dahl and the Rapid City Arts Council.

"The arts don't have an economic impact?" Anderson asked Friday, after she listened to Rounds' explanation that he targeted his budget cuts at agencies that don't produce revenue. "It was interesting logic. We had 840 people here on Saturday and another 500 on Sunday. We're already getting contacts from tour buses that want to come see what we have here. I challenge the governor to say that the arts aren't revenue producing."

Falling tax revenues and looming budget deficits forced Rounds to submit a revised budget Thursday to the 2009 Legislature. He called for eliminating $668,509 in state monies for the arts, effectively closing the office established in 1966, which is also partially funded by the federal government's National Endowment for the Arts.

Gov. Rounds agrees the state Arts Council is a valuable program, but said he had to make tough financial choices.

"It's one of those areas that I really believe adds to our culture and adds to our quality of life, but we simply don't have the money to provide for them," Rounds said Thursday in Pierre.

Pat Boyd, executive director of the arts advocacy group South Dakotans for the Arts, called on the Legislature to continue funding what she called a "critical" state program.

"There are those who see the arts in South Dakota as a needless luxury in times of fiscal crisis," Boyd said. "But this elimination of funding will immediately impact 18,000 artists and thousands of other South Dakotans whose livelihood is based in part on cultural tourism, visitor spending and community performances. Our modest state investment in the arts is leveraged into a vital element of our state's economic success."

Boyd said the proposed savings amounts to 86 cents for each state resident but accounts for $48 million in economic impact from programs by arts organizations statewide.

Longtime state Arts Council board member Ruth Brennan of Rapid City said economic development was the first thing she thought about when she learned of the proposed cuts on Thursday.

"When you're trying to attract new business, new people to a community, one of the first things they look at is what's going on culturally in the area," Brennan said. "What does eliminating that funding do to that?"

The Dahl Arts Center gets $25,000 a year in annual SDAC grants, or 6 percent of its annual budget. An organization as large as the Dahl will survive without those grant funds, but it will be forced to find other revenue sources - either through more private donations or higher ticket prices, Anderson said. The loss of its touring artist grants through the state program will mean fewer exhibits and events. "We'll find it, or we'll cut, or raise admission fees," she said. "It always comes back to the public, unfortunately."

But smaller arts organizations, such as the Black Hills Symphony, the Black Hills Community Theatre and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park, will be hit much harder by the loss of state grants.

About half of SDAC's annual budget is passed through in the form of small grants to hundreds of arts groups and programs statewide. Last year, Artist in Schools & Communities grants sent 26 artists to 162 schools for 231 weeks, bringing arts opportunities to 35,000 South Dakota youths. South Dakotans for the Arts, based in Lead, also got $40,000 in operating funds from state grants this fiscal year.

If the Legislature approves the cuts, it will make South Dakota the only state in the nation without an arts council and the only one without a federally-approved entity for accepting NEA funds, Brennan said. NEA monies for artist-in-residence school grants are sometimes the only arts curriculum offered in small rural schools.

Colorado and Montana tried eliminating their state-funded arts councils, but both states eventually reversed that decision because of unforeseen consequences, Anderson said.

"Both states saw huge problems when they zeroed out their arts councils. Now, they've all been reinstated," she said.

Eliminating public funding for the arts means "saying that only people that have money should have access to the arts," and that is "cutting off your nose to spite your face," Anderson said. "All research shows access to the arts is critical to providing the kind of creative work force we're going to need in the future," she said. "In the new economies of the world, art is not a luxury."

Local art grant recipients

Here is a list of South Dakota Arts Council grants to Rapid City groups. There are many other arts-related groups and artists in the Black Hills area who are grant recipients, as well.

  • Bells of the Hills, $1,000.
  • Dakota Gathering of the Clans Celtic festival, $1,500.
  • Central States Fair Foundation, $500.
  • Dakota Artists Guild, $500.
  • Black Hills Chamber Music Society, $2,654.
  • Rapid City Children's Chorus, $3,390.
  • Black Hills Community Theatre, $14,775.
  • Black Hills Symphony Orchestra, $11,902.
  • Rapid City Arts Council, $22,110.
  • Going for Baroque, $1,000, Touring Arts grant.
  • Hank Harris, $1,500, Touring Arts grant.
  • Christopher Robin Johnson, $500 Touring Arts grant.
  • Don Jones, $1,000, Touring Arts grant.
  • Graham Thatcher, $3,000, Artist Grant
  • Andre Truitt, $1,000, Emerging Artist Grant.
  • Michael He Crow, $2,977, Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant.
  • Black Hills Workshop, $500 plus travel.
  • Children's Home Society - Owens School, $2,400 plus travel.
  • Rapid City School District, $4,500 plus travel.
  • Rapid City Arts Council, $8,150 plus travel.

Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8424 or mary.garrigan@rapidcityjournal.com

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