April 26 2018 09:57 AM

Rallying the troops as budget deadline approaches


After a legislative victory recouped $1.15 million in funding for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Michigan’s creative sector advocacy group Creative Many revived its annual Arts Advocacy Day last week from a decade-long slumber.

“It seemed like the right time to bring it back. We’ve gotten to a unique milestone moment in our work across the state.” Creative Many’s president, Jennifer Goulet, said. “We’re bringing to the table the research and data points that are making the compelling argument that it’s critically important to advance this agenda in Michigan.”

Goulet and her team at Creative Many argue that the arts make a significant enough economic impact to justify providing a larger portion of the state budget to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

Their numbers make a convincing argument. Research touted by Goulet’s organization shows that the arts industry contributed $764 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, including $5 billion in wages here in Michigan.

“There’s a bunch of different things that received one-time appropriations last year that the governor is not recommending this year — everything except for arts and culture,” Sarah Gonzalez Triplett of Creative Many said. “There’s a deepening understanding of the importance of funding the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.”

Creative Many and its bipartisan Michigan Legislative Creative Caucus — founded in 2014 — have the simple, but important, task of lobbying for arts funding. The Creative Caucus boasts an impressive combined membership of 32 — including five senators and 27 representatives from various districts across the state — a handful of whom spoke at the Capitol.

“They are working tirelessly to engage their colleagues to sign onto to be a part of this agenda,” Goulet said. “They are trying to really position the creative industry as a competitive strategy within Michigan’s economic development plans and priorities.”

The rallying of the troops seen Wednesday was no coincidence. The movement behind Creative Many was galvanized upon the Trump Administration’s initial budget draft, which saw a significant slash into arts endowments — money lost that would have a crippling trickle down effect for Michigan’s various artistic industries.

According to Triplett, after a national outcry from countless arts organizations, much of the money slated to be removed from the federal budget was reinstated.

Michigan has seen somewhat of a turnaround in arts funding. The state appropriated an additional total of almost $10 million from its budget since 2011. Today’s Michigan Council For the Arts works with a sum of $11.15 million, which is still a far cry from the $30.8 million it had back in 1995.

Local artists that support Creative Many and participated in Arts Advocacy Day argue that the recent increase in funding still isn’t enough.

“Any you cut it, we’re not getting enough money,” said Lansing-based artist Kimberly Lavon. “I’ve had people ask ‘are we paying you too much money?’ I don’t think any other profession is treated that way.”