Advocates to push for support of African and African American artists at the State Capitol

Advocates to push for support of African and African American artists at the State Capitol

Advocates for arts support that better represents African Americans and African-born Minnesotans will be at the State Capitol on Wednesday to push for better funding of black artists and organizations. Put together by the Council on Black Minnesotans, the day will include advocating for a bill authored by Representative Phyllis Kahn that would study the funding, utilization, and impact of black arts in Minnesota.

The Council on Black Minnesotans has been around for 34 years. "Basically, we are an advisory board to the Governor and state agencies," says board chair Patwin Lawrence.

The council noticed there were significant disparities in the funding of black artists in Minnesota, with big differences between "how many black artists are in town and how many black artists receive funding," says Junauda Petrus, an artist working with the group. 

Petrus says that the council is looking especially at black emerging artists, particularly when it comes to grants funded by Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, made possible by the Legacy amendment. "There's not a lot of people applying," she says. "This is something that the State Arts Board has discussed: why communities of color aren't applying. What difficulties are they finding with the process?" 
Minnesota Council on Black Minnesotans celebrates MLK day
Minnesota Council on Black Minnesotans celebrates MLK day

This past year, the council traveled around the state, speaking with constituencies about issues that affect them. "We wanted to bring Africans and African Americans together," Lawrence says. The discussions were focused on education, criminal justice, economic development, and the arts. 

In addition to individual artists, Petrus says that organizations have been involved in discussions, such as Juxtaposition Arts and TU Dance, along with established African American artists such as Seitu Jones. "I've been very impressed with how strong the arts community is," Petrus says. 

The council will be pushing for a bill, authored by Phyllis Kahn, that would study both the impact of black arts and how to better support artists from both African and African American heritage. The study, funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board, will "see where we need to focus on in terms of eradicating disparities that black artists are having," Lawrence says. 

The day of action includes attending the Legacy hearing at 9:30 in the morning, and there will be a rally in the afternoon at 2 p.m. in the Rotunda. 


The Legacy Arts
State Operations at the State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
9:30 a.m. Wednesday, February 26
See the Facebook invite for more details. 

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State Capitol Rotunda

75 Constitution Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55155


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