Arts and Exhibits budget to be expanded, not defunded

As ASMSU Senate worked to create the budget for the 2016 fiscal year, controversy arose over rumors of decreased funding for the arts and exhibits program, which is responsible for running the Exit Gallery in the SUB.

Major changes to the arts and exhibits budget were never officially proposed. However, according to ASMSU Senate President Josh Soares, a small group of senators questioned the Exit Gallery’s value to students, thinking that it didn’t have enough student traffic to justify funding. This led to a misunderstanding among students, and some people feared that the Exit Gallery would be defunded in the April 9 senate meeting.

The only monetary change proposed during the April 9 senate meeting was an additional $300 to fund a second student art sale, Upheaval. In past years, Upheaval has taken place once a year, during fall semester. With this additional funding, the event will be held during both the fall and spring semesters.

Soares and ASMSU Senator Kaitlyn Wernik, the arts and exhibits liaison, agree that the benefit of the program was not clear to the senators who discussed cutting the funding. This prompted ASMSU to take a closer look at how they evaluate their programs. “Right now we don’t have any metrics in place to determine how our programs are doing and how they are growing,” Wernik said.

In the case of the Exit Gallery, the perceptions of its success were subjective and according to Soares and Wernik there has not been a way to quantify its value. To combat this issue, ASMSU plans to implement an evaluation system for each program. Additionally, senate will place more emphasis on their duties as liaisons to ASMSU programs, making the liaison portion of their jobs more of a priority.

After discussion among the senate and conversations with Arts and Exhibits Program Director Laura Wilson, the parties decided that the Exit Gallery was flourishing based on foot traffic and general student input that ASMSU received.

Soares and Wernik said that in the end, changes made to arts and exhibits were much more in policy rather than in budget.

“No one could dispute Upheaval was a huge success year after year after year … It’s the best thing we can do for students,” Soares said. Upheaval gives students the opportunity to earn money from their art and also for students to purchase art at a reasonable price.  “It makes art affordable and accessible for students,” Wernik said.

According to Soares and Wernik, in addition to increasing arts and exhibits’ budget, ASMSU plans to make changes to the way the Exit Gallery will be operated next year. Currently, approximately half of the work displayed in the gallery is MSU-affiliated, and the other half is from community members. Next year, all of the art displayed in the Exit Gallery will come from MSU, either from students or faculty.

Although there was concern among the student body about decreased funding to arts and exhibits, the controversy lasted only two days and resulted with the Senate giving additional financial support to the program. While the situation was essentially a misunderstanding, it did raise awareness of the need for ASMSU to be more diligent in the way they evaluate their programs. “The important thing is that we worked together and made a decision in two days, then moved forward as a coherent unit,” Soares said.