Minnesota IS the State of the Arts

Citizens for the Arts rally at the Minnesota State Capitol

Citizens for the Arts rally at the Minnesota State Capitol

Celebrating the 10-year Anniversary of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Amendment

Remembering November 9, 2008

When those of us who worked to get the Arts and Cultural Heritage Amendment on the ballot, heard the news on the morning of Nov. 9 that the amendment had passed by a very respectable 56% we were wildly elated!

 We all - the arts, the environmentalists, the sportsmen -  had worked so long and so hard, that we were pinching ourselves to be sure we weren’t dreaming.  I vividly remember the phone calls, the hugging and the impromptu celebrations, all of us saying, “We did it, we really did it!”  November 2008 was a heady time of big dreams, of what if’s, and a slow realization that there was a huge amount of work to be done.

By December, the public grant makers at the MSAB and the Regional Arts Councils knew that we were being charged with a huge and very serious responsibility.  The voters of Minnesota had entrusted us with $93.2 million over the next two years for arts and cultural heritage programs, which was 19.75% of the total Legacy Amendment funding. Of that $93.2 million, the Minnesota State Arts Board received $43.3 million.  In effect this tripled the amount of state funding to the Minnesota State Arts Board and to the 11 Regional Arts Councils.  The funds would be available beginning July 1, 2009. That left us eight months to build the infrastructure for administering and distributing triple the amount of funding we had been responsible for in 2008.  Personally, I can remember many evenings and weekends spent working on new grant programs, budgets, and organizing focus groups.  I know I wasn’t the only one who gave up trying to keep track of my overtime.

Lake Region Arts Council Board member, Jim Arvidson, presents an Artist Legacy Grant to artist Sam Norman.

Lake Region Arts Council Board member, Jim Arvidson, presents an Artist Legacy Grant to artist Sam Norman.

Showing her sense of humor, Sue Gens remembers it like this, “I’ve often said it was like flying the Space Shuttle and building it at the same time.  Everyone – from the legislature, to the business enterprise of the State of Minnesota, to our board and staff, to regional arts councils, to potential applicants and constituents, felt the timeline was too compressed.  But everyone had a common belief that it was vital to get the dollars out of the state treasury and into the hands of individuals and organizations that would put it to work in communities all across the state.”

Creating a Vision for the Arts in Minnesota

One of the most memorable experiences of the planning process was a combined meeting of the Minnesota State Arts Board and all 11 Executive Directors of the Regional Arts Councils where we discussed what our vision for the Legacy Amendment would be.  Here is what the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Regional Arts Councils believe we will leave as our Legacy after the 25 years of the Amendment have been completed:


In 25 years, Minnesotans will have made a significant investment in the arts. As a result:

  • In Minnesota, the arts define who we are.  This is a place where people are transformed by quality arts experiences and see the arts as essential to their communities.  The arts in Minnesota connect people of all ages and cultures, fostering understanding and respect.

  • Arts and culture are central to Minnesota’s educational system and lifelong learning opportunities.  The arts develop creative minds that maximize new opportunities and find solutions to life’s challenges.

  • In Minnesota, the arts are an integral part of the economy.  Because of the arts, Minnesota communities are successful, dynamic, attractive places to live and work.

  • Minnesota is a recognized national arts leader, a magnet for artists and arts enthusiasts, and a destination for tourists. Residents and visitors are assured a world-class quality arts experience.

  • Minnesotans appreciate, create, attend, participate, or invest in the arts. Minnesota’s effective, innovative, vibrant, public-private support for the arts is the strongest in the country.  Universal support and appreciation for the arts help ensure the state’s exceptional quality of life.

By July 1, 2009, we had completed our planning work and were ready to begin awarding grants and providing services.  The excitement of those first grant rounds was heady stuff.

Dedication of the Battle Lake Art Stream project funded through a Legacy Fund grant.

Dedication of the Battle Lake Art Stream project funded through a Legacy Fund grant.

A Look at Where We Are Today

As Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018 approaches, I am struck by how much impact the Legacy Amendment has had in 10 years.   Quite honestly, I get a little giddy again, thinking about the Legacy-funded art projects in Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, New York Mills, Fergus Falls, Alexandria, Glenwood, Morris, Breckenridge Wheaton and many, many other communities in our region.

But - and this is an important “but” that I always include when I talk about the Legacy Fund -  all this activity, all this support of the arts is only possible because every day ordinary Minnesotans like you and me believe the arts are important. Important enough to vote to change our state’s constitution and important enough that every time we purchase something and pay sales tax, we want a small portion of that tax to be spent on arts and cultural heritage activities.

 Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Legacy Fund is a celebration for all of us.

I hope you will join Lake Region Arts Council as we highlight regional Legacy Stories in the coming months.  If you have a Legacy story to share about your community, or your work as an artist, we’d love to hear it, so we can tell others!