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Arts South Dakota Releases Candidate Survey on Support for the Arts

Arts South Dakota has published its Vote smART survey of South Dakota candidates’ positions on the arts.

Artists, take note: Democrat Billie Sutton was the only gubernatorial candidate who chose to complete the survey. Libertarian Kurt Evans submitted not response, while Republican Kristi Noem colored outside the lines and submitted a statement instead of answering the specific questions Arts South Dakota asked.

Here’s what Arts South Dakota asked and what Sutton said in response (the first three were checkbox items):

QUESTION 1: What is your personal background and experience in the arts?

Billie Sutton: Instrumental, Vocal, Film/Media, Literary Arts

QUESTION 2: What arts activities have you attended, participated in, or supported in the last year?

Billie Sutton: Music, Theater, Theater, Film/Media

QUESTION 3: Are you aware of an agency of state government – the South Dakota Arts Council (SDAC) – whose purpose is to recognize the importance of creativity in the lives of all South Dakotans, the Council makes quality arts accessible throughout the state by providing encouragement, grants, services and information to artists, arts organizations, schools and the public?

Billie Sutton: Very aware.

Questions 4: DO YOU BELIEVE THE SOUTH DAKOTA ARTS COUNCIL, UNDER THE DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM, SHOULD RECEIVE STATE FUNDING FROM THE HALF-PENNY TOURISM TAX? Matching funds received from the National Endowment for the Arts benefited all South Dakotans and generated $24.57 for every $1 invested by the state of South Dakota.

Billie Sutton: Yes.

QUESTION 5: We believe arts education stimulates creativity, communications and learning, and that arts education is an essential tool for reaching youth at risk. HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE ARTS TO THE EDUCATION OF ALL SOUTH DAKOTA CHILDREN?

Billie Sutton: I have seen the benefits of the arts in our schools, communities, and families. Music, the visual arts, writing and poetry, the performing arts and design/architecture offer so much to all of us — but especially to our youth. They give young people confidence, creativity and a sense of place. Art education is also very important to developing well-rounded students who have had the chance to explore their multiple forms of intelligence.As governor I will be an advocate for the arts in our schools.

QUESTION 6: We believe the arts are an intrinsic part of the well-being of our communities, and that the arts play an important role in economic development and tourism. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE POTENTIAL FOR CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH DAKOTA, AND HOW WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE THAT DEVELOPMENT?

Billie Sutton: One big example of art making a difference in South Dakota came last year when Dale Lamphere and his supporting cast unveiled the Dignity sculpture near Chamberlain. Everybody was so proud of the 50-foot tall sculpture. It draws people to Chamberlain from all over, and people from very different backgrounds find it inspiring and meaningful for lots of different reasons. Yet it also ties us all together in a way that only art can do. We have more opportunities to incorporate art into our cultural and economic development efforts in South Dakota, just like Dignity, and I will support those collaborations as governor.

QUESTION 7: We seek the support and endorsement of individuals, businesses and government. WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE ROLE OF PUBLIC FUNDING FOR THE ARTS AT THE NATIONAL, STATE AND LOCAL LEVEL?

Billie Sutton: I support the collaborative efforts made by the legislature, the hospitality and tourism industry, and previous governors to create a dedicated funding source for promotion of tourism and the arts. Any future changes in the current structure should be a result of working together with all parties, including the arts community [Arts South Dakota, gubernatorial candidate survey, published 2018.10.17].

Noem’s single-paragraph response answers Questions 1 and 5. It ignores Questions 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7. In particular, note that Questions 4 and 7 ask the basic policy question of public funding for the arts. Where Sutton responds affirmatively to those questions, Noem is silent. Note also that Noem begins with a dangling modifier (“the arts” were not “growing up”):

Growing up, the arts—music, in particular—was a big part of our family’s life. At one point, I think my dad even hoped we’d have a family band! Today, my sister-in-law carries the creative torch as an artist herself. That appreciation for the arts is alive in much of South Dakota and has produced incredible talent, including Oscar Howe, Terry Redlin, Dale Lamphere, Benjamin Victor and others. As a member of the U.S. House, I’ve looked to celebrate that creativity through the Congressional Art Competition. I was blown away by the young artists we have in our state, most of whom were supported by dedicated teachers. While athletes get to celebrate their accomplishments with regular game-time victories, there isn’t always that community of celebration for our young artists. As such, it was special to recognize these students by hanging their artwork in the U.S. Capitol. As governor, I will continue to foster that kind of supportive environment for South Dakota’s arts community, something only made possible because of organizations like this. Thank you for all you do to enrich South Dakota [Kristi Noem, statement in lieu of specific response to Arts South Dakota survey, published 2018.10.17].

For some head-to-head responses, let’s sample the District 3 Senate race, in which both candidates followed instructions and answered the questions posed:

GOP: Al Novstrup Dem: Cory Allen Heidelberger
1: personal background in arts none Vocal, visual, theater, literary arts
2: arts activities attended/supported theater, visual arts, dance, theater music, theater, visual arts, dance, theater, film/media, literary arts
3: aware of SD Arts Council very aware very aware
4: support arts funding w tourism tax yes yes
5: importance of arts education Success for each student depends upon that student having a passion. Many times art is that passion. For example, my daughter, Linda was passionate about Johnny Cavell dance. Dance helped form Linda’s character. Today Linda is a dance teacher. Arts are an indispensable component of an adequate public education.
6: support cultural development Weekend festivals such as Arts in the Park and Storybook Land Festival contribute to the quality of life. South Dakota inspires great art (e.g., Linda Hasselstrom’s poetry, the rodeo movie The Rider). We need to welcome and support creative minds to our state.
7: support public funding or arts I believe in a balanced approach to funding. My number one priority is taking care of those who are unable to take care of themselves, such as Aspire clients and nursing home residents. Education funding (K-16) and economic development are important to me. Arts funding is a part of education and economic development. The arts are vital to the general welfare. The arts deserve public funding.

Al and I were among 17 out of 68 Senate candidates to submit responses to Arts South Dakota. Thirteen Democrats and four Republicans responded. Susan Wismer of Britton and Lee Schoenbeck of Lake Kampeska get extra credit for responding even though they face no opposition in the general election.

Joining Schoenbeck and Novstrup in Republican responses is Senator Stace Nelson from District 19, who says nuts to funding the arts. “The USA is $21 Trillion in debt,” he says to Question 4, “and South Dakotans are taxed enough already.” Likewise on Question 7: “I do not support it. Government should only do that for the people that they cannot do for themselves. Private funding.” Nelson says arts come “after reading, writing, and math” in the schools. On cultural development, Nelson takes the classic conservative line: “the free-market is the way to go. example: Freeman Chislic festival” (for which event, interestingly, Senator Nelson has sought enormous gloat points for his vigorous government intervention of naming chislic the state nosh).

Nelson’s opponent, Democrat Ardon Wek, openly supports the arts. Wek emphasizes the importance of arts in stimulating students’ self-awareness, self-expression, confidence, and social skills. He says promoting cultural development requires not just privately funded chislic but also “exposing students to the arts at a young age” and “assisting communities with traveling art exhibits.” Wek also says, “The public should help fund the arts” because we have a “duty to ensure art is cultivated and enjoyed.”

The only other  Senate Republican in the heap, Jeff Partridge from Rapid City, takes a less-than-Noem route, submitting three sentences: “Thank you for the letter; I am not a Survey responder; However, my voting record and my time on the Allied Arts Council here in Rapid City should suffice to say I am supportive.”

Arts South Dakota asks our U.S. House candidates one notably different question: “Do you support a funding increase for the National Endowment for the Arts, so that arts organizations in South Dakota can present more high quality arts programs for all of its citizens?” Republican Dusty Johnson proves himself the biggest conservative, saying he opposes increasing NEA’s funding until we balance the budget, at which point he’ll be “open to a conversation.” Democrat Tim Bjorkman supports increased NEA funding; so, remarkably, does Libertarian George Hendrickson, who says NEA funding shows “how taxpayer based grant programs are to work” by stimulating lots of private funding. LaRouche independent Ron Wieczorek supports more NEA funding, but only for “classical art” that “serves as food for the mind, uplifting the soul; it is not entertainment, and it does not promote degeneracy.”


  1. Porter Lansing 2018-10-18 21:03

    This is your best post this cycle. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  2. Debbo 2018-10-18 21:19

    Sutton’s answer to #5 is very good. “They give young people confidence, creativity and a sense of place. Art education is also very important to developing well-rounded students who have had the chance to explore their multiple forms of intelligence.” Perfect.

    Wieczorek said the weirdest thing. He supports classical art, but not that which is “entertaining.”

    What? Doesn’t he know that people find Puccini’s operas entertaining? Or Shakespeare? Or Keats? Or Michelangelo?

    Very, very weird.

  3. grudznick 2018-10-18 21:55

    Mr. Wieczorek is a bit of a curmudgeon, which does elevate him in my opinion, but I would tell you he values things that are necessary. Art is not necessary. Mr. Wieczorek also feels the collusion with London is bad and that drugs, rock, and sex education are to blame for many of society’s problems. It’s hard to argue with him there.

  4. chris 2018-10-19 10:33

    Wieczorek likely cribbed that from Lyndon Larouche’s insane mutterings on art, same source as the rest of his platform points.

  5. Donald Pay 2018-10-19 10:44

    Grudz: “Art is not necessary.”

    Humans evolved to be creative, to use that creativity to develop hunting and gathering strategies, to tell stories, develop oral history and cave paintings. The earliest written languages were pictographic and derived from art. Art made us human, and continues to do so. Those who think art is not necessary are not human.

  6. mike from iowa 2018-10-19 11:01

    I like ” Flower Duet” by Delibes and that is classical music. Context doesn’t hurt.

    People who don’t think we need art are depraved individuals and likely to the right of Attila the Hun.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-19 21:41

    Porter—funny the things that will stand out in this ongoing opus. I’m glad you liked it!

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-19 21:47

    Grudz: “Art is not necessary.”

    Universe: “Humanity is not necessary.”

    Not one beautiful thing any of us has ever created is necessary.

    Yet life without beauty is mere existence.

    We choose to do more than exist.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-19 21:51

    Debbo gets me thinking that, strangely, for an outsider and rebel, Wieczorek takes an elitist stance on art that is unacceptable as a basis for public support of arts. If the public is to support creativity, that support cannot be funneled solely toward the preferred genres of any single elected official.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-19 21:52

    David, the unifying theme behind Al’s votes appears to be personal gain and political self-preservation.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-19 21:57

    Says LaRouche: “Classical musical composition serves as a hallowed spiritual retreat from confusion, into the domain of the most concentrated sense of truth and beauty, from which we reemerge always strengthened in our powers to exert that quality of creative reason by means of which Genesis 1:26-30 sets mankind apart from all other creatures in this universe. Thus, virtually all truly great scientists must rely upon such music, that their moral character might be more fully developed in keeping with their vocation.”

    LaRouche delves too far into the mystical here, which is unnecessary to establish the fact that classical music is indeed beautiful.

    But The Tragically Hip are great, too.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-19 21:58

    Notice that LaRouche appears to agree with Mike and Donald that art is necessary to make us human.

  13. Debbo 2018-10-19 23:37

    As others have been saying, in many different ways, arts can soothe a troubled soul. (Yeah, I made that all up myself.😉)

    I have not been a fan of rap music, nor hip hop in general. Then Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer for music and I felt that I owed it to myself to see what he is about. Online I found the lyrics to his album, “Damn.”

    I was blown away. His lyrics are dense, rthymic, powerful, emphatic. They roll with energy and urgency. They tell stories, describe, educate, enlighten. I’ll tell you what, this old white lady’s eyes were opened to a very talented man.

    I immediately thought of 60s folk artists– Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Peter Paul and Mary, the Weavers.

    I think Kendrick Lamar, and probably others in hip hop, serve a similar purpose for the young people of the 21st century. Both dreamed of and worked for a better world. They pulled others along with them. That is art.

    (I still don’t care too much for the music, but I do like to read the lyrics. Passionate stuff.)

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-20 06:46

    My interest in rap ended with Young MC, whose “Principal’s Office” I have taught as poetry.

    I find some paintings dull or trite. However, I once went to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg simply for the pleasure of standing for another thirty minutes in front of one portrait.

  15. Porter Lansing 2018-10-24 07:57

    Debbo … I know of know one my age that knows as much about or listens to as much rap as me. I find the poetry every bit as contemporary as Dylan’s best. It’s noted that the vast majority of people never listen to any music that they didn’t listen to as a teen or early twenty something. I guess being retired has given me the time to explore music and the arts with great joy.
    Grudz says art is not necessary. Grudz chastises me for pointing out the German culture that enrobes most people in SD. Google “greatest German artists” and “greatest German musicians”. Well, you’ll fine Gerhardt Richter, Beethoven and Bach. Point made.

  16. Debbo 2018-10-24 14:15

    Germany’s historical and ongoing arts culture is marvelous and enjoyed around the world.

    Humankind has recognized the critical value of the arts since humankind had the ability to think critically about anything. Hence cave paintings, carved figures, etc.

    Art is not something modern humans devised. It’s always been part of us and diligently taught to our children because it’s always been recognized as critical to strong human life.

    That’s why one of the first things dictators want to control and use for their benefit is arts. Witness the art of North Korea, the USSR, Communist/Maoist China, etc.

    When the Roman Empire made Christianity their religion, one of the first things they did was change the art.

  17. Porter Lansing 2018-10-24 14:35

    Agreed about Germany. Volga German Americans … not so much. Grudz can says art is irrelevant any it just flows on by. Republicans cut art from schools so the taxpayers can put an extra hundred bucks a year in their beer money account and it just flows on by. In liberal states parents would be having bake sales. Art is vital. Cory’s post was his best of this election cycle. IMHO 😉

  18. Porter Lansing 2018-10-24 14:53

    Debbo … BTW, you got me perked. I’m going to listen to that Kendrick Lamar album of the year (To Pimp a Butterfly), tomorrow night. Haven’t listened to it in over a year. Prolly spin his newest, “DAMN”, also. C’mon over, girl. 😉 lol

  19. Debbo 2018-10-24 15:00

    I’ll be there. Set em up! 🍻

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-24 22:31

    A note for my future compositions: Porter finds great merit in a post where my own direct responses to questions were, in total, briefer than Al Novstrup’s.

  21. Porter Lansing 2018-10-24 22:35

    You’re eloquent at every level, Heidelberger.

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