As a recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant we are pledging not to apply to the Creative Support program. We believe that the taxpayer dollars that MSAB distributes should be equitably distributed to the full ecosystem of arts and culture in Minnesota.
We are entering into this pledge with Mixed Blood Theatre, Forecast Public Art, and Trademark Theater, and invite you to join. If your organization would like to be added to the pledge, please contact Carl Atiya Swanson, Associate Director, Operations & Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are we doing this?
As a historically white-led, predominantly urban-based organization, we have benefited from systems that have excluded others. We know that the multiple crises our communities face disproportionately impact people, organizations and communities that already face systemic disparities. We know that ALL cultural organizations are hurting right now and that the MSAB’s grantmaking funds are much lower than normal this year. Given that there is such a limited pool of funds this year and that the goal of these funds is to support Minnesota’s creative ecosystem, for us it does not feel right to “double dip” from the very limited MSAB grant funds.
MSAB data shows that 45% of the operating support dollars went to the 12 “Tier 1” institutions in the Twin Cities with budgets over $5,236,000, and the remaining 55% of the dollars are split between 159 mid-sized organizations, including Springboard. This data also shows that only 5% of Operating Support grants went to organizations identified as “POCI orgs.” The state demographer’s office estimates that 20% of Minnesotans identify as being a person of color. Only 26% of the Operating Support dollars went to organizations outside of the 7-county metro area while 45% of Minnesota’s population lives outside of the metro area. Organizations with budgets under $174,000 were not eligible for Operating Support dollars.
Don’t we need the money?
Yes. Springboard has a significant deficit to make up in our budget this year. Like everyone, we’ve been impacted by the loss of earned income, changes in funding and cancelled and delayed programs. We do not have an endowment to tap. We share this to illustrate that these decisions aren’t easy and that moving towards greater equity will require hard choices on all of our parts. It is hard to resist the conditioning that tells us to go after every grant opportunity and to decide to sit out an opportunity for funding, especially unrestricted funding. We also know that the multiple crises our communities are facing disproportionately impact organizations and individuals from Native, Black, Indigenous and people of color, rural communities, LGBTQIA+ communities and the disability community and that it is our collective responsibility to change.
Isn’t this something the funder should determine?
Yes, ideally. We’re happy that the MSAB has implemented some new guidelines to increase the equitable distribution of their funds, but we also believe that there is more to do and that this moment requires all of us to question the ways that we participate in inequitable systems.
Should all organizations who have already received Operating Support do this?
This is a decision each organization needs to make on its own. We know that circumstances, context and structures are specific to each organization and that this may not be feasible or possible for all Operating Support grantees, especially smaller, rural, and BIPOC-led groups. We are asking the Tier 1 organizations to discuss this pledge and strongly consider whether the possibility of accessing additional funding from the Creative Support program outweighs the potential to support access for grassroots groups and recognize the importance of the full ecosystem of arts and culture in Minnesota.
*Groups in Springboard’s Incubator program are still eligible to apply.