The Most Consistent Season
By Tatiana Gant
MAC Executive Director We are in the most consistent of any of Montana’s seasons: the legislative session. For 90 days in odd-numbered years, 150 elected officials gather in the capital and make decisions that guide the state for the next two years. Biennial legislatures have become increasingly rare, and Montana is one of just a few states to maintain the practice. The pace is quick and the work is focused and productive. The Montana Arts Council (MAC) is moving through the process with good support from the committees reviewing our funding bills.
Supporters of the arts frequently ask me what they can do to help increase support for MAC. While I understand the ultimate goal is an increase in funding, I feel that MAC is in a positive environment. Protecting that goodwill, while establishing the worthiness of additional resources, is dependent on demonstrating the benefits of the present investment.
I have yet to meet a legislator – knock on wood – who is against the arts. Often the stumbling block is uncertainty if public support of the arts is the best use of taxpayer dollars. Legislators understand that, like all government services, MAC provides resources aimed at equalizing opportunities. We strive to strike a balance between making secure investments, encouraging innovation, and ensuring there’s a wide variety of artistic experiences in all parts of the state, so that anyone can be engaged in the arts.
Experience fosters enthusiasm
MAC’s most enthusiastic legislative supporters are those with first-hand experiences. For some, their children have had a visit from the Art Mobile or Montana Shakespeare in the Schools, both grantees of MAC. High school students from their districts have represented Montana at Poetry Out Loud National Finals. Others have witnessed the economic value that cultural programming can bring: attracting tourism, supporting ancillary businesses, and creating jobs.
Invite your elected officials to events, and most importantly thank them for the support that they have given. The strongest relationships are forged over time. Montana’s term limits guarantee that there will be fresh faces every legislative term. Those who want to see MAC grow can help by speaking consistently on the importance of public funding to the arts.
NGA report relevant to rural state
A recent report released by the National Governors Association highlights ways that arts and culture initiatives can grow the economy in rural communities. While there are varied definitions of “rural,” most agree on a metric of fewer than 50,000 residents, classifying most Montana towns as rural.
MAC is proud to have made investments that strengthen our vast and very rural state, and that help shine the national spotlight on some of our innovative programs. As a vibrant part of state government, MAC is grateful for the trust of the governor and the legislature to continue to grow the arts in Montana.