By Jim Speirs, Executive Director, Arts South Dakota

It was disappointing to see our lone Congressman, Dusty Johnson, recently support a funding bill amendment that would have reduced National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) appropriations by 25%, sending the NEA budget back to 2017 levels. Johnson has been a past supporter of South Dakota arts programs, and has expressed his belief that our state benefits from cultural development and artistic creativity. To go backward with federal arts funding—especially important in a rural state like ours—is damaging to education and the quality of life for all South Dakotans.

Now, more than ever, we need to strengthen our support for the arts. During the height of the pandemic, a creative-industry analysis estimated losses of 2.7 million jobs and more than $150 billion in sales of goods and services for creative industries nationwide, representing nearly a third of all jobs in those industries and 9% of annual sales. In South Dakota during 2020 and early 2021, a survey of arts non-profits tells us 94% had to cancel events. That equated to 879,259 lost program attendance with an over $11 million negative financial impact on the sector. In addition, over 500 South Dakotans had been laid off or furloughed in the arts sector during the pandemic. 

National arts funding is vital for South Dakota’s cultural growth. The NEA and its state partner, the South Dakota Arts Council (SDAC), support creative expression in nearly all South Dakota counties. In FY19, the SDAC awarded 439 grants, impacting 1.35 million people throughout South Dakota, including the nine Native Nations with lands in our state. These programs often provide the only contact to the arts for underserved populations in rural areas and limited-resource communities across the state. 

Please join us in reminding Congressman Johnson that South Dakota needs the NEA and annual growth in federal arts funding appropriations! To learn more about the impact of NEA support to South Dakota, check out the facts online at