Rep. Marty Seifert has been criticizing how RT Rybak has spent 0.03% of City of Minneapolis budget in order to make a case that Rybak’s priorities are out of whack. Seifert’s fawned outrage revolves around a portion of a $500,000 1-time expenditure on artistic drinking fountains.
Given that outrage, it seems safe to assume that no tax dollars are being spent on art projects in Marty Seifert’s district since that would be hypocritical, right? Well, it turns out that Marty Seifert’s district has been sucking up tax dollars for art projects on Marty Seifert’s watch. Here are a few examples:
This granite and steel piece called Prairie Wanderings by Paul Benson resides at Southwest State University was purchased with state tax dollars.
Marshall Public Schools, Marshall
$2,957 – To host a community residency by Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers
Marshall Area Fine Arts Council, Marshall
$10,000; to increase our membership by broadening our stewards and increasing
stability for our organization
Marshall Area Fine Arts Council, Marshall
$2,410; 2005-2006 Performance Series
$3,500; 2006-2007 MAFAC Performance Series
$3,350; 2004-2005 Performance Series
Dicksy J. Howe-Noyes, Marshall
$4,060; to collaborate with the Marshall Fine Arts Council on an interactive exhibit of historical Dakota women’s clothing and adornment in contemporary expressions
Julieta Avarado, Marshall
$6,000; to research and link her Latin American music to its roots in Spain and Spanish Baroque music, particularly Andalusian music and, specifically, that of Seville
Daniel Rieppel, Marshall
$6,000; to study, practice, research, and then perform in recital all of the piano and violin sonatas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in honor of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth
Marshall Area Fine Arts Council, Marshall $3,000 – 2010 Grant
Each of the above examples of state tax dollars filtering into Marty Seifert’s legislative district received money from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This state taxpayer funded organization was formed by the Minnesota Legislature as State Arts Society in 1903. At that time, we had visionary Republican Governor, Samuel R. Van Sant. He was also the first governor to reside in the Cass Gilbert designed Minnesota State Capitol Building.
I found an interesting snippet about the state of arts in Minnesota around the turn of the previous century that helps explain why politicians at the time proudly invested in the arts. It’s from page 17 of: Minnesota 1900: art and life on the upper Mississippi, 1890-1915 By Michael Conforti (I added the links for further reading):
Patronage of the arts also reflected the region’s purposefully communal character. Minnesota’s population, both small-town Yankee and agrarian northern European, believe in the value of art but lacked the experience of embracing it. Their sense of duty in supporting culture also contrasted with their relative aversion to conspicuous display. Their houses might be large, but the interiors were rarely complemented with significant art works. In the essays that follow, we read that William Folwell once encouraged the purchase of [Robert] Koehler’s The Strike by suggesting that not supporting its purchase was un-Minnesotan. Folwell knew that an earlier Art School director, Douglas Volk, had returned East because he lacked patrons. The need to support missionaries like Koehler, whether by purchasing his work or attending his lectures, even those on the new modern art, was takan as the responsibility of the community as a whole.
It seems like Minnesotans maintain many similarities when it comes to the arts as they did a century ago. Luckily, there were politicians at the time with visions large enough to build and fund support for things that would outlast them. They left a positive lasting artistic impression on the State of Minnesota that’s with us more than a century later due to their support for public for the arts. The State Capitol will outlast all of us. And MCAD. And the MIA. Thosre are serious visions that did not bankrupt the State of Minnesota.
Another significant individual who comes to mind is former Republican Governor, Arne Carlson, who, in 1997, signed a bill into law that increased funding for the Minnesota State Arts Board by $12 million biennially.
On the other hand, we have microvisionaries like Rep. Marty Seifert who’ll attack arts projects to score cheap political points in fundraising emails.
I’ve presented clear evidence that taxpayer dollars are being spent on art projects rather than cops in Seifert’s district under his watch. Now, it’s possible that Marty Seifert or one of his supporters such as Ben Golnik, when faced with this hypocritical reality, will respond with something like, “That money is earmarked for projects like that, so it couldn’t be spent on cops in Marshall, MN” which is exactly of the point they’re choosing to ignore when attacking Rybak for using money earmarked for projects other than police staffing.
Marty Seifert’s Pragmatic Vision
What would Minnesota’s State Capitol look like had Marty Seifert been governor in the 1890’s? Would Seifert have had the vision to hire Cass Gilbert to build one of the most beautiful state capitols in the country? My guess is that he’d lean toward something more pragmatic that’s built out of corrugated steel; or perhaps sublease part of an abandoned strip mall. Fiscally responsible? You betcha.
While I don’t see it, perhaps Seifert actually does understand that it’s occasionally worth spending more than the pragmatic minimum if you want to build something that lasts; something that makes an impression; and something we can be proud of for years and years. It’s hard to tell whether he understands this or not when he’s busy emailing reckless attacks on the arts to in a misleading fundraising attempt.
We need a Governor who understands the role and responsibilities of the office. Someone who won’t mislead constituents about important financial matters to score cheap political points. We need someone who can present and deliver upon a vision for a better Minnesota. I don’t think Seifert’s feet are big enough to wear those shoes.