When a third grader in Kadoka discovers she can write a poem, when a junior high assembly in Britton hears live jazz for the first time and when an entire community turns out to admire their new Main Street mural, we know the arts are alive in South Dakota.
One reason those life-altering arts experiences are happening is that individuals—teachers, school administrators and community leaders—are working to connect with the programs that make sure the arts are accessible across our state. Another reason is the continued support of the South Dakota Legislature, realizing that the arts are vital to learning and to our cultural environment. But without the nurturing wellspring of federal dollars, brought to South Dakota through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, many of these experiences may not happen.
In rural states like ours, with hundreds of small communities spread throughout a large geographic area, a state arts agency like the South Dakota Arts Council is vital. The SD Arts Council combines the federal dollars from the National Endowment for the Arts with the matching funds from the South Dakota Legislature through the Department of Tourism to bring artists to schools and communities and touring arts programs to all corners of our state. Federal funding from NEA even helps to keep our cultural heritage alive, thanks to specific grants for traditional arts apprenticeships that ensure a new generation of flute makers, hoop dancers and prairie fiddlers.
Last year, the South Dakota Arts Council brought 51 artists to 100 communities for 220 weeks of residencies, connecting students and local residents with South Dakota’s working creative people. The Touring Arts program made possible 190 events in 165 communities, serving 22,725, including 12,332 young people. That’s bringing the arts to people in places where, prior to Arts Council programs, those opportunities did not exist.
We need to take steps to ensure that communities across South Dakota continue to have opportunities to meet artists, and that students are always able to learn they can become artists themselves. On March 21, SD Artist Laureate Dale Lamphere, SDAC’s Patrick Baker and Rebecca Cruse and I will be traveling to Washington, DC to share this important story with South Dakota’s Congressional delegation. Join us in letting our Congressional delegation know that, here in South Dakota, the support of the National Endowment for the Arts to our creative future is not a luxury, but a necessity.
To connect with our Congressional delegation or learn more about Arts South Dakota programs, join us online at www.ArtsSouthDakota.org.