Holly Olszewski: MCACA- Keeping the Lights On

By Holly Olszewski

Far too many projects in the arts have the lights ‘turned out’ because they lack the funding to continue. Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Michigan Council on Arts and Cultural Affairs council meeting and hear the wonderful ways in which this government agency is keeping the lights on for many projects throughout our fair state. It was fitting that the council meeting took place in the Carnegie Library Building (1903) in downtown Traverse City under this beautiful lighting fixture, giving light and symbolizing a tradition of quality.

The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) is a council made up of 15 individuals appointed by the governor. It is the state government’s lead agency charged with developing arts policy as well as grant making. The Council works to fulfill its mission by serving as champions, advocates and a point of connection and coordination for the field with legislative, corporate and other leaders with an interest in seeing the mission of MCACA fulfilled.

Through their mission, To encourage, initiate and facilitate an enriched artistic, cultural and creative environment in Michigan, MCACA in 2017 awarded 504 grants totalling $9,736,672 to fund projects, programs and regranting programs in the state of Michigan.

Programs receiving grants:

  • Operational support $4,853,153
  • Project program $903,657
  • Capital Improvements program $2,226,485
  • Regional regranters $700,000
  • Services to the field $629,000
  • Arts in education residencies $298,198
  • New leaders retention/engagement $126.179

Among the regranting partners, regional regranters in 65 counties received 252 grants.  The touring arts grant through the Michigan Humanities Council granted 148 grants in 37 counties.  The Michigan Youth Arts Association  granted 56 schools in 28 counties through their Art equipment/supplies program, and served 24 counties with 129 awards through their Arts and Culture Trek program for transportation.

Over all, MCACA shed light all over the state including 14 out of 14 congressional districts, 38 out of 38 Senate districts and 108 out of 110 House Districts.  When regranting is included, there were a total of 1068 grants awarded in 78 counties.

Using grants from MCACA and Arts Midwest, along with two other arts agencies, organizers in Flint are helping the children devastated by the Flint Water Crisis heal their community through the arts. Throughout the coming year, the community of Flint and its children will benefit from programs through Midwest World Fest, a program that facilitates week long residencies in midwest communities for world class performers.

MCACA along with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has unveiled an app that identifies the public art nearest you. The MI Art Tours app has information about each piece, the artist as well as  directions to get there. It also has built-in tours, local and statewide.  There are 1,155 art works and 72 built-in tours.  It is free to download from the Apple app store or on Google play.

This is an impressive list, but there were projects that went unfunded and grants that were requested and not awarded. A little over half of the $18,211,616  requested was granted.  This is a call for advocacy. MCACA can distribute the funds but it is up to us to continue to advocate with our state and federal leaders for increased funding for the Arts.  There is always more we can do when it comes to advocacy. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies has a wonderful resource entitled The Five Essential Arguments.  NASAA, has many other wonderful articles and handouts that can be used to start the conversation.  It would be amazing if MCACA could fund every grant request.

There are also many opportunities for those looking to enrich their own lives by giving back.  MCACA asks every year for volunteers to sit on review panels to read and score the grant proposals.  More information on this opportunity can be found at MCACA’s website.

Michigan Arts Education, Assessment, and Instruction (MAEIA) is funded in part with a grant from MCACA, and we are grateful for their continued support.

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