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The Official Blog of National Taxpayers Union

Minnesotans Tax Dollars Went to This?

Posted by Kristina Rasmussen - September 04, 2008

This fall Minnesota voters will consider a sales tax hike (equal to about $300 million annually), with the higher taxes slated to go toward public bankrolling of conservation and the arts.

Sounds nice, but let’s consider what public funding for the arts already goes toward in my home state.

Yesterday, I took this photo of an installation found at the Franconia Sculpture Park (near my parents’ home). Apparently, the locals call it “The Big Poo.” You can see why.

The Park’s own website says “This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts." According to the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Franconia Sculpture Park received almost $53,000 in “institutional funding” grants over the past five years.

Do more Minnesotans really need to pay higher sales taxes in order to fund projects like this? I'm going to guess that most taxpayers would prefer to a) see their tax dollars go to other functions of government (e.g., improving roads), or b) keep their tax dollars for personal use.

When my family goes to vote on the sales tax hike ballot question this fall, they’ve told me “The Big Poo” will be at the forefront of their minds as they vote no. If you need more reasons to turn this tax hike down, here are more than a few.

Thoughts?   Add Comment -

Art Appreciation said on Sep 05 2008 at 8:19am
Well, you and your parents just stay in your comfortable little cultural cocoon and poo-poo outdoor sculpture. I'm sure you'd rather have our tax dollars spent on something more appropriate, like killing brown-skinned people in foreign lands so we take their oil. My guess is you rubes would vote against raising taxes to fix roads too, despite your spoiled-brat rhetoric.

Andrew Moylan said on Sep 05 2008 at 8:36am
Wow! So people who oppose taxpayer-funded art projects are murderous racists? If only I had known the error of my ways!

In all seriousness though, I don't think there's anything "spoiled brat"-ish about thinking that tax dollars should be spent on more important priorities than giant poo sculptures.

And in fact, your example of roads is, I think, very instructive. Road infrastructure is one of the few things that left and right tend to agree is a core function of government, yet it is seldom adequately funded. That says a lot about the nature of government, that even core functions get ignored.

However, that doesn't mean we need to raise taxes. There's plenty of money in the system, but too much of it gets diverted to non-essential projects. So why don't we make a deal: let's stop subsidizing art projects like this and instead spend all those tax dollars on infrastructure.

said on Sep 05 2008 at 8:45am
That must have been a big dog...

Kristina said on Sep 05 2008 at 8:57am
I clearly struck a nerve with “Art Appreciation” on this blog post. Look, if you think projects like the one I photographed above help to crack the “cultural cocoon” you assume other people to have, by all means, go and build similar installations (a giant toilet might be a fitting addition). But if they’re so great, why pursue forced donations from taxpayers? The Franconia Sculpture Park has a donation page on its website; I won’t stop you from donating your own money or time to help make the Park a success.

p.s. my mom wants me to add that she'd pay higher taxes if it would get the roads paved around here.

Connoisseur said on Sep 05 2008 at 1:45pm
Ah, why do so many of my fellow art afficionados stoop to such Pecksniffian attacks while pretending to be sophisticated intellectuals? In a word, hypocrisy.

Private patrons have enabled the creation of most of the world's greatest works of art, even today. We don't need a government ministry of culture, Mr. "Art Appreciation." We need more Phillips Collections, Corcoran Galleries, and other private museums I enjoy visiting (for about the same price as a movie ticket and popcorn, I might add.) You see, it's all about the choices people decide to make with their own money. They don't have that choice when their tax dollars are forced to fund other peoples' aesthetic visions.

Speaking of choices, sir, I have the perfect one for you. Take all the stuff you've shoveled in your sanctimonious email and pile it in your backyard. Then, you can lovingly admire your own personal "Big Poo" at no expense to the rest of us.

Keith said on Sep 05 2008 at 2:08pm
Has anyone seen Paul Bunyan around?

WR-INC said on Sep 06 2008 at 4:48am
While private funding created the world's greatest artistic achievement, they would not fund the world's worst. That therefore must be left to the government to fund, since the unskilled artists need to eat too.

Chisago County Resident said on Sep 07 2008 at 8:49pm
I, too, live in Chisago County and have had the benefit of enjoying this "artwork" on occasion.

Yet, I would prefer that my tax dollars focus on the fundamentals like education, roads/bridges, adequate police and fire departments, and so forth. And, just to be sure that Art Appreciation doesn't bash me, I am a peaceful type and enjoy people of all skin color.

The problem today is that there are adequate dollars in the system but those funds are poorly managed by people who are not held accountable to good financial stewardship!

John Hock said on Sep 08 2008 at 10:34am
A “Turd’s –Eye” View,

Dear Kristina Rasmussen, why don’t you just admit you know nothing about Franconia Sculpture Park (FSP) and the good it does for the state and the nation!! What FSP does for the Minnesota economy FAR outweighs the (small) amount ($) it receives from the state arts board. For info about how the arts serve the economy, please see: .

FSP has education, outreach and at-risk youth programs that nurture and support our society.

FSP supplements school curriculum by giving more than 30 school tours a year (effecting more than 2000 youth) The education students receive is worldly - not closed minded.

FSP's at-risk youth program helps, mentors, and saves homeless youth from certain negative influences. FSP helps move youth off the streets. And when certain local youth (families) run into trouble, Franconia is there to help. FSP works with local youth service bureaus. FSP, no doubt, saves Minnesota money through its community service programs.

The sculpture highlighted here (you referred to as "poo") is titled "Metalmatic" created by Minnesotan artist Karie Reardon and she funded the creation of it entirely out of her own pocket (not the states). So lets not spread evil rumors (lies). I personally live in the Chisago county community, and I've never heard this sculpture being referred to in this negative manner. So please try and keep your creativity to a minimum, you're not good at it.

I recognise the photo you shot is taken from route 8, Lake boulevard (it's very dangerous to stop on highway 8). Please, next time you should actually come into FSP and learn more about the park. It's free, and once you visit and understand you will no doubt want to leave a donation. Thank you! John Hock

Keith said on Sep 09 2008 at 10:22am
Art Appreciation and John Hock,
Your posts are examples of everything I hate about the internet and blogging. First, you spend very little time actually speaking about the ideas that Ms. Rasmussen presented. Instead, Art Appreciation posts anonymously and can't even stand behind what he/she says. As for John, thank you for at least posting your name. But, why just attack her ideas instead of just belittling the author at the end of your comment because her ideas clash with those of your own? I am sure the FSP does some good things, but should it get grants from the government to operate? I know plenty of great organizations that survive without a penny from the government because they provide a great service to their communities and their patrons support them with donations to further their work.

Jan R. said on Sep 16 2008 at 3:40pm
Dear Bloggers,
You have driven me to respond to your comments about Franconia Sculpture Park and specifically to Kari Reardon's awesome 23 1/2 foot steel sculpture. This beautiful organic shaped steel structure is over 2 tons of welded steel that took Kari Reardon about a month to create from spools of steel about 5" wide. Kari completed this sculpture in 2006 as an Open Studio Artist and recieved NO OUTSIDE FUNDING for this piece she named "METALMATIC". The sculpture has naturally changed to this beautiful brown patina. When I look at this piece I see a large chysallis where a,huge butterfly could emerge from. Some of you choose to see it as a 23 1/2' piece of poo. People see what they want to see. Perhaps Kari with her instinctive cosmic sense envisioned these shapes from millions of years ago when the dinosours roamed the earth and left their deposits. I encourage all of you to come to FSP on Sat.,Sept. 20 for the FALL FESTIVAL CELEBRATION starting at noon. See for yourself and meet some of these remarkable artists who put their heart and soul into creating new and adventuresome sculpture. I personally believe we need more funding for artists as they help all of us to view life in new ways. Imagine that you are an ant looking up at this big brown structure. I'm glad that it's made of steel and doesn't carry the smell that a poor ant might encounter on his daily trek. Yes, Ibelieve that Kari Reardon is a truly gifted artist who does have a special cosmic sense. I'm not prejudiced, I'm her proud Mother.