75 Minnesota Artists Receive $500 in Guaranteed Monthly Income Payments

Image: Aïda Amer/Axios

Through the end of March, dozens of Minnesota artists will be receiving monthly $500 checks with no strings attached.

Driving the news: Springboard for the Arts is expanding its Guaranteed Minimum Income for Artists (GMI) program in St. Paul and Otter Tail County, providing 75 local and rural artists with cash payments for the next 18 months to use on whatever they want.

  • Next month’s launch follows the success of the nonprofit’s first GMI pilot in April 2021, which supported 25 St. Paul artists living in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Why it matters: Local governments and nonprofit groups across the country are experimenting with cash payments to fight poverty and income inequality. Minneapolis and St. Paul are among the cities running universal universal basic income pilots.

  • Expanding the program to include Otter Tail County, which has a population of about 60,000 and includes the town of Fergus Falls, will be the first GMI pilot for rural artists in the country, Rural Program Director Michele Anderson said in a statement.

How it works: Fifty artists from St. Paul and 25 from Otter Tail County were randomly selected from an existing pool of artists in eligible zip codes who had previously received financial support from Springboard.

  • All funding for the program comes from private foundations and donors; there is no proof of income or employment for the recipients.
  • According to a press release, at least 75% of recipients identify as Black, Native American, and/or Black.

what she says: “The funds should supplement income, not replace it. We want to help people feel more financially secure…so they can feel better about working on their art,” Wone Vang, Springboard’s director of economic opportunities, told Axios.

  • The nonprofit, which has offices in St. Paul and Fergus Falls, chose Otter Tail County for the expansion because of the nonprofit’s existing connections in the community, Vang added.

What you do: Although participation was optional, approximately half of the recipients created pieces for public art collaborations between Springboard and the City of St. Paul.

  • The artists’ projects included a coloring book, a music EP, a stained glass installation, and choreographed dance performances.

What we observe: The next 18 months will be funded, after which the future of the program is unclear.

  • Meanwhile, Springboard and a University of Pennsylvania researcher will analyze the program’s impact on recipients and their communities.


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