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National chair praises Minn. support for arts

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Betty McCollum, Rocco Landesman
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum and National Endowment for the Arts Chair Rocco Landesman at the History Theater in St. Paul, Friday June 15, 2012. Landesman describes McCollum as a great supporter of the arts and the NEA.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

The chair of the National Endowment for the Arts today praised Minnesota's support for the arts during a visit.

Rocco  Landesman said Minnesota serves as a national example with the Legacy Amendment to support the arts, and the highest rates of arts engagement in the country.

Landesman toured  St. Paul's History Theater with U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum and met with staff to discuss the challenges facing arts organizations in the state.

NEA funding comes before Congress next week. McCollum serves on the congressional committee which will take up that discussion. Landesman does not expect the debate to be as controversial as it has been in the past and is confident the package will go through.

"I think they have bigger fish to fry, or something. I think people accept the arts are important, they are an important part of people's daily lives," Landesman said. "I don't sense the hostility toward the arts, per se. I think there is a hostility towards spending money on anything. But I don't sense we are being targeted in the way we were sometimes in the past."

Minnesota has a great deal to teach the rest of the nation, Landesman said.

"The Twin Cities are poster children for what the arts need to be in every city across the country, with this kind of support and this kind of commitment," he said. "It really is a special place for the theater which is my field, and the arts generally."