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Backing the arts on the campaign trail, in our back yard

The results are in, and after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, the American electorate is clearly showing a stunning groundswell of support for … anyone’s guess. Perhaps the pundits jumped the gun a wee bit after one state caucus, ya think?

On the face of it, however, Iowa was a marginally better race for arts advocates, regardless of party affiliation. Both of Iowa’s winners, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee, support the arts, on paper at least, according to Arts Action Fund.

The snarky among us might note that Huckabee has been touring with well-known aesthete Chuck “Walker, Texas Ranger” Norris, while Obama has been campaigning with literary maven Oprah Winfrey. Of the two New Hampshire winners, however, only Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton has a stated arts policy.

Meanwhile, back in Minneapolis…
Closer to home, in Ward 8 in South Minneapolis, the arts issue will be the focus of local public-policy types at a kick-off event next week for a series of planned monthly meetings on “Arts and Creative Economic Development.” Speakers at the Jan. 16th event will be artist Seitu Jones and Humphrey Institute professor Ann Markusen, author of “The Artistic Dividend” and other works analyzing the arts economy.

Although the program focuses on artists and Ward 8, Council Member Elizabeth Glidden emphasizes that the event is open to anyone interested in the issue. This could be a particularly opportune moment to get involved in such an initiative, she said, because the city is updating its 10-year comprehensive plan, which includes a “large section on arts and culture.”

One proposal would reinstate a department of arts and culture to help re-establish the arts as a priority in the city. “It’s more than just understanding that it makes you feel good to see art in the neighborhood; the arts offer tangible benefits and community development,” Glidden says. As an example, she mentions a proposed art center at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue South, a corner that has been in the news in recent years for all the wrong reasons.

“It wouldn’t be a huge development project, but it would be a catalytic project,” she said.

Markusen, a nationally recognized expert on the role of the arts community in overall economic vitality, agrees that small-scale support can make a significant difference. “There’s a lot cities can do just through land-use regulations, where they permit artists to live and work,” she says.

Even in an era of tight budgets, there are ways to finance such efforts, she says, citing cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, where a hotel/hospitality tax goes to smaller neighborhoods for arts and development efforts.

What: “Arts and Creative Economic Development: How can the city of Minneapolis support artists and arts organizations.” Light refreshments provided, and child care will be available.
When: 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 16
Where: Pillsbury House Theatre, 3501 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis
More details: Ward 8 Council aide Andrea Jenkins, 612-673-2208.

Soo Vac benefit
Another way to support the arts is, of course, to buy some. Soo Vac’s annual Get Lucky benefit is this Saturday, Jan. 12, featuring work by a raft of local folks including (and this is a much-abbreviated list) Andrea Carlson, Jaron Childs, Jennifer Davis, Clea Felien, Robert Fischer, Alexa Horochowski, Bethany Kalk, John Largaespada, Chris Larson, Lydia Lunch, Rob McBroom, Erika Olson, Amy Rice, Sean Smuda, Angela Strassheim, Twenty-Seven and Cameron Wittig. Other auction items include a signed Les Paul guitar from indie-rock darlings the Hold Steady, formerly of the Twin Cities.
What: “Get Lucky” benefit gala for the nonprofit Soo Visual Arts Center.
When: 7 p.m.-11 p.m., Jan. 12
Where: Soo Vac, 2640 Lyndale Avenue S., Minneapolis
Tickets: $25; call 612-871-2263 or click here

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