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January 23, 2009 05:55 PM

Art Groups Respond To Proposed Budget Cuts


Members of the Sioux Falls arts community hope to convince South Dakota lawmakers not to do away with state funding for the arts. 
Several arts organizations met in emergency session Friday afternoon in response to Governor Rounds' plan to cut more than $660,000 in money for the arts. 

Governor Rounds' proposed spending cuts would eliminate the South Dakota Arts Council, the main funding source for art projects across the state. Rounds said that decision was one of toughest calls he's had to make because of the arts impact on communities and in classrooms.  One Sioux Falls sculptor couldn't agree more with the governor about arts importance in school. 

South Dakota school kids are familiar with the work Darwin Wolf. The Sioux Falls sculptor inspires and molds young minds through the state-funded "Artists in Schools" program.

"I can't see a functioning society without the arts," sculptor Darwin Wolf said. 

But if South Dakota eliminates arts funding, the "Artists in Schools" program would likely fold at the end of this school year. 

"The way it looks right now, if anyone's looking for a sculptor with some marketing experience, they can look me up in June," Wolf said. 

Given these tough economic times, some would say the arts are an extravagance the state can no longer afford to support.

"The arts can be seen as a luxury, but there's also a quality of life issue," Wolf said. 

Supporters of the arts say Sioux Falls would stagnate culturally and economically if art no longer becomes a priority in the state. 

"It brings people in, because there are arts here.  If it was just a stark and barren community, it's not that attractive, especially when it's 20-below zero," Deb Klebanoff of the Sioux Empire Arts Council said. 

Wolf is hopeful legislators will restore arts funding and keep the budget ax from crossing his sculptor's blade. 

The Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society says eliminating arts funding would lead to a scaled-back JazzFest concert that attracts thousands of music lovers to Yankton Trail Park each summer.

No arts funding also means the state would no longer be eligible for matching federal funds through the National Endowment for the Arts.
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