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The state government shutdown – how is it affecting the local arts community?

(Last update: 7/15/11 at 11:00 am) UPDATE (7/15): A tentative deal between the principal negotiators – House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, and Governor Mark Dayton – was announced yesterday afternoon when Gov. Dayton reluctantly accepted the GOP’s offer of June 30, tendered just hours before the shutdown began. However, none of […]

(Last update: 7/15/11 at 11:00 am)

UPDATE (7/15): A tentative deal between the principal negotiators – House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, and Governor Mark Dayton – was announced yesterday afternoon when Gov. Dayton reluctantly accepted the GOP’s offer of June 30, tendered just hours before the shutdown began. However, none of the parties involved appear to be enthusiastic about the outcome of the budget agreement, which relies on a substantial education payment shift (in plain English: the state takes out a one-year IOU for 40% of the funds it owes local school districts), as well as borrowing from future state tobacco settlement funds. If it passes both the DFL and GOP caucuses in the legislature, the state will likely recall its workforce and resume operations in the very near future.

According to a newsletter announcement this morning sent by the advocacy group, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, included in the current budget agreement up for a vote are provisions which will release much-needed Legacy Amendment funds to the Minnesota State Arts Board and regional arts councils, and from there to the local artists and arts organizations awaiting their grants.

You can follow the developments in the budget talks and shutdown:


in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

on Minnesota Public Radio

in the St. Paul Pioneer Press

in the Minnesota Independent

in the Minnesota Daily

in the Duluth News-Tribune

in the Rochester Post-Bulletin

in the Associated Press


Well, here we are. Minnesota’s fiscal year ended at midnight last night, and without agreement between the legislature and the Governor on the state’s 2012-2013 biennial budget, we’ve officially entered the uncharted territory of the most sweeping government shutdown in Minnesota state history.

Confused about how we got here? Just below is an incredibly clear, three-minute explanation of the whys behind the shutdown, courtesy of the folks at MPR. Watch it. (I’ll wait.)

There’s little else in the news all over the state today, and there are a number of handy guides to what’s open and closed in a variety of media outlets. But here’s the thing: even with Judge Kathleen Gearin’s order in hand, while we now have a general sketch of which “critical core functions” of government will continue despite the shutdown, the more precise details about how this will all play out are still pretty murky. But if a state-run or –subsidized program isn’t directly tied to public safety and health concerns, it’s a safe bet that it’s shuttered and closed for business until a new budget agreement is signed and goes into effect.

Visit for more information, including some answers to a few general government shutdown questions.

Closed for business during the shutdown

For artists looking to find out how the shutdown will affect them – in terms of grant information sessions, dispersal of Legacy funds, availability of regional arts councils’ services and programs, etc. the Minnesota State Arts Board (MSAB) has the most complete information on their website. Below you’ll find the high points.

The MSAB will be closed and unable to respond to email or phone calls for the duration of the shutdown. Which means that until the state government is back up and running:

  • No Arts Board grant payments (including those affiliated with the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund) will be made
  • No contracts (or contract amendments) will be executed
  • No grant applications will be reviewed or approved (pertinent deadlines will likely be extended as a result of the shutdown)
  • No contact or meetings will resume until the shutdown is over

Regional arts councils, as independent nonprofit organizations, are not required to close down during the shutdown, but the State of Minnesota is the principal source of funding for most of them; since the legislature has not approved either the state general fund appropriations, or the arts and cultural heritage fund Legacy Amendment appropriations for fiscal year 2012-13, most of them will not have the funds to continue their operations. You can contact the regional arts councils in your area to find out more information.

Other arts organizations whose operations have ceased or been curtailed because of the state government shutdown include:

Minnesota Humanities Center

Minnesota Historical Society (including its museums, libraries, historic sites, and programs like the “9 Nights of Music” outdoor concert series)

Minnesota Zoo (although the IMAX showings and concert series will continue)

Perpich Center for Arts Education

All Minnesota state parks

A bright spot in all this bad news is that arts programs affiliated with the state’s colleges and universities, as well as those in independently operated and city- or county-run museums, programs, parks, and arts organizations, will for the most part remain open and largely unaffected by the state government shutdown. Among these are the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden and; neither is dependent on state funding, and both organizations will be open and operating as usual during the shutdown.

*UPDATE: Judge Gearin ruled this week that the Minnesota Zoo could remain open during the shutdown. “Gearin agreed with the argument posed by the zoo’s attorneys, who said it should be able to open using a state law that directs zoo gate revenue back to the facility. Because it has a standing appropriation, they said, it should be allowed to open.” (Via Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

*UPDATE (7/9): Northfield Arts Guild will remain open, in spite of the closure of the State Arts Board (via Northfield Patch)

*UPDATE (7/9): Ditto for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, which will tap their existing funds to remain open during the shutdown as long as they’re able

*UPDATE (7/12): The Board on Minnesota Film and TV is in operation for the time being, but they’re asking for donations to keep the doors open through July, as most of their funding comes directly from state funds still pending. UPDATE 7/14: MinnPost has a nice piece today about the effects of the shutdown on Minnesota’s film industry.


If you’d like to make your voice heard at the capitol, find contact information for your district’s representatives here.

UPDATED 2 pm, July 1: Marianne Combs, “State of the Arts” blogger for MPR is covering the shutdown, with some good reporting from the regional arts councils.


Check back next week. I’ll be following the developments as they unfold, and will post again when we have more information about the finer details on how the shutdown is playing out in arts communities around the state. In the meantime, all you artists, speak up in the comments below: How is the government shutdown affecting you?

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