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Your Letters: Minnesotans individually define 'art'

What is "art"?

It is individual. It is subjective. It is broad. So broad that we prefer "creative expression" rather than "art." Above all, it is important to Minnesota.

New forms of creative expression are emerging in our state as diverse populations migrate to Minnesota, bringing with them cultural traditions we've previously not known. Their traditions further enhance our vibrant creative landscape.

At the same time, Minnesotans recognize the state's rich cultural heritage as seen, heard, smelled and tasted in a variety of traditional art, music, dance, food and community festivals.

Through the MN Arts Count ( census, the Minnesota State Arts Board and the state's 11 regional arts councils are trying to determine how many Minnesota individuals and businesses or organizations are involved in arts and creative expression, and how broad and diverse their interests are. We are conducting the census under the direction of the Minnesota Legislature as a means to ensure funds from the Minnesota Legacy Amendment are invested wisely. MN Arts Count will help ensure grants awarded by the Minnesota State Arts Board and the state's regional arts councils are representative of the spectrum of creative expression in the state.

Hobbyists, part-timers and professionals. Be proud. Be counted.

We are considering the broadest definition of "art" and "creative expression" in our research. As defined by Minnesota Statute: "'Arts' means activities resulting in the artistic creation or artistic performance of works of the imagination. Artistic activities include but are not limited to the following forms: music, dance, drama, folk art, architecture and allied fields, painting, sculpture, photography, graphic and craft arts, costume and fashion design, motion pictures, television, radio, tape and sound recording, activities related to the presentation, performance, execution, and exhibition of the art forms, and the study of the arts and their application to the human environment."

By this definition, the MN Arts Count is open to any Minnesotan who professionally or personally engages in any form of creative expression. Weekend musicians and high school theater actors count and need to be counted. Wood carvers in Little Falls, Native American women in Cass Lake who sew beads to traditional headware, and quilters who gather in church basements across the state count and need to be counted.

There are likely many people who would not consider themselves artists or even creative. They sew out of necessity or they dabble in watercolors to relieve stress. By our definition, they count and should be counted - they should not disqualify themselves from MN Arts Count. Our goal is to get the most accurate count of artists, and arts organizations and groups - in the broadest sense.

Coffee shops, bands and concert halls - they count, too. MN Arts Count is also measuring the number of venues that host creative displays, musical concerts, theatrical performances, as well as groups comprised of performers. For example, it's possible that a representative of a bar-band trio would take the census as an individual and as an organization. Representatives for each of the venues where that band plays would also take the census because they host musical entertainment.

To be counted, go to and complete the census. A paper survey can be requested by calling (800) 748-3222 ext. 225. And please help us spread the word. It's time for creative types to be proud and be counted. For periodic updates on the MN Arts Count, follow MNArtsCount on Twitter and Facebook.

Sue Gens, executive director

of the State Arts Board in St. Paul

and Mark Turner, executive director

of the Five Wings Arts Council