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News-Tribune: More outreach and promotion for state arts council, including to veterans homes

Since being moved to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor earlier this year, the Missouri Arts Council has been looking ahead to its future, particularly in its strategic plan.

Gov. Mike Parson moved the arts council to the lieutenant governor's office as part of streamlining the focus — and down-sizing — of the Department of Economic Development. Other offices of the Department of Economic Development were moved to other state executive departments, such as the departments of Natural Resources, Higher Education and Workforce Development, and Commerce and Insurance.

The Missouri Arts Council dedicates itself to "broadening the growth, availability, and appreciation of the arts in Missouri and fostering the diversity, vitality, and excellence of Missouri's communities, economy, and cultural heritage. The grants we award make possible quality arts programming to communities both large and small throughout the state," according to the arts council's website. Michael Donovan, the council's executive director, emailed the News Tribune that 2019 is "a pivotal year" for the arts council, not only because of Parson moving the council under Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe's office, but the council making a five-year strategic plan.

"This is more than an update (of the strategic plan). We are looking strategically at what we do and how it benefits the state. We are asking ourselves how can the arts benefit the state's quality of life, education, workforce development, economic impact, health, business innovation and more. This includes getting input from Missouri residents, stakeholders, artists and arts organizations, legislators, and others. The potential is to identify ways we can impact Missouri that we aren't already doing. The Lt. Governor and his office are a critical part of this process," Donovan said.

Kehoe said the plan was not yet finalized, but thought it would be adopted by the end of the year.

He anticipated changes to the plan would reflect his office's ability to greater promote the council's work, such as being able to get the council a seat at the table in the governor's cabinet meetings with other executive departments.

"I think he believes that when you put it into a statewide office, it gives it a little bit of a bigger platform," Kehoe said of one reason why Parson selected his office to be the one to receive the arts council.

Another reason Kehoe gave was that "(Parson) has seen other states' lieutenant governors handle similar functions."

Beyond working with the council on its budget and promotion efforts, though, Kehoe said the council's staff has not changed since the move by Parson — still just less than a dozen people — and "I'm trying to let the staff and the board (of the council) drive this thing, because I'm not a micro-manager."

Another part of the strategic plan that's been worked on is connecting city and regional arts councils with the state's veterans homes and their communities, such as through strategic partnerships with organizations including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Kehoe said.

"It's not an original idea of mine; I got it from one of our veterans homes up in Mexico, Missouri, about how important it has been for that operation to have the ability to participate in the arts," he said.

Missouri has seven veterans homes that provide long-term skilled nursing care for veterans.

In terms of more updates of the arts council, Kehoe said the council is also seeking to update the economic impact stats on its website, which are from 2015.

Those figures show the total economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the state was more than $1 billion, including almost 32,000 full-time equivalent jobs and almost $90 million in revenue for state and local governments.

"The current economic impact study was initiated in partnership with Americans for the Arts. AFTA will begin their next study in 2020 with the report following in 2022. The Missouri Arts Council will again participate," Donovan said.

The Missouri Arts Council is funded by the Missouri Arts Council Trust Fund and some federal funding.

The lieutenant governor's office this year received $994,000 from the Department of Economic Development's Missouri Council on the Arts Federal Fund and a further $5 million from the Missouri Arts Council Trust Fund — both amounts for the "Missouri State Council on the Arts."

Kehoe said "promoting arts in our state does not come at the cost of K-12 education, or a social welfare program, or corrections or something. By-statute, it was set up to be funded through the arts and entertainers tax," adding arts and entertainers tax's revenue goes into the trust fund for the arts council.

"Our budget continues to be consistently supported annually. We hope to develop a plan that will generate additional financial support from the state," Donovan said.

Kehoe said arts are not a cure-all to social problems, "but it certainly does give, especially young people, some alternatives, and so it's important that we continue to try to promote what arts can do, especially in our school systems, to give these young people alternatives" to things such as becoming absorbed in social media or running with "the wrong crowd."

"And if they have some talents, it's a good time to start developing them," he added.

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