Monica Miller

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When I saw rumblings of cuts to the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), I assumed it was an empty threat. It’s not that $148 million isn’t a lot of money, it’s that we get so much for that money.

Constantly under threat on the national level and this year as well at our state level, the arts have always offered value to our community. I want to highlight the impact funding for the arts on the national and local level has had on Gallery One over the years as well as the impact that artists have on our local economy.

In 2002 when Gallery One purchased the Stewart building to transform it into an arts center, Washington state’s program, Building for the Arts (part of the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development) awarded Gallery One $180,000 towards the $1.5 million dollar renovation. Other recipients included Seattle Art Museum for $1,000,000. In 2003, to complete construction, we received a $113,000 Heritage Capital Grant. Other recipients of this program included the Museum of Flight. Our nearby city of Roslyn received $181,000.

Today, both of these programs are under siege with many of our legislators blaming the McCleary decision. The cut would drastically impact similar, rural projects such as the OK Hotel renovation in Othello, leaving only funds for the larger museums in Tacoma, Seattle and others on the West Side. My argument to Reps. Manweller, Dent and Sen. Warnick (via her aide) was these contributions by our state were smart investments for our citizens that have not only multiplied in financial terms through jobs, artist income and tax revenue but also to our quality of life here in District 13.

In 2008, just as Gallery One was getting our sea legs, the recession hit. The National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Washington State Arts Commission offered funding to arts organizations through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It was no bank bailout, but the $14,000 helped hire former Director Carol Hassen who saved the ship and helped to navigate us into this current era of productivity.

Put plainly, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. While economists may debate the overall impact of this strategy, we here on the rural front lines of investments in the arts can speak directly to its benefits.

Because the NEA requires a match for its funding, the local spending and investment in communities around the country begins almost immediately. Some say that for every dollar invested in the arts, $7 is created.

At Gallery One for example, every time we exhibit an artist, we make money for Ellensburg. If from out of town, they will likely stay in a hotel, possibly for the install and deinstall. At the very least they are making two trips. Their friends will take a day trip to Ellensburg to see the exhibit. They will have lunch, they will walk around, they will buy something (they will). If the artist is from Ellensburg, they most likely purchased their materials from Knudson’s, Ace Hardware, Jerrol’s, the Habitat Store, CWU surplus and so on. These costs don’t include the tools they need, the space they rent, the classes they take. In 2014, Ellensburg artists, writers and performers claimed $800,000 in income ($1.6 million in Kittitas County that same year).

Since the city of Ellensburg implemented a Percent for Arts funding stream, we now are the beneficiaries of dedicated arts funding along with the Clymer, Punch Gallery and other arts organizations and artists. Jane Orleman, for example, has received funding to preserve our beloved Dick and Jane’s Spot. This year Gallery One is receiving funds to help produce Confab, a weekend of professional development, networking and inspiration for artists and the communities that serve them.

The modest yet mighty investment of $1,500 will again multiply in terms of artist skill sets and investment in our community of entrepreneurs and community builders. While there are many calculators that exist to help measure the financial benefit of investing in the arts, we are proof on a very local, rural level support for the arts by the government from every level can have an impact on our daily lives. When you invest in the arts, this is what you get. It’s my hope if you agree, if you and your family have benefited from these investments, you will speak out to our representatives about how funding for of the arts, no matter how small, can have big impacts.

Monica Miller is the Director of Gallery One Visual Arts Center and a daily advocate for the arts through her role as both an Ellensburg Arts Commissioner and Washington State Arts Commissioner.

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