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.”