Feb 23, 2023 - Business

75 Minnesota artists to receive $500 guaranteed monthly income payments

Illustration of George Washington wearing a beret.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

By the end of March, dozens of artists in Minnesota 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, giving 75 local and rural artists cash payments for the next 18 months to use on anything they want.

  • Next month's launch follows the success of the nonprofit's initial 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 address poverty and income inequality. Minneapolis and St. Paul are among the cities with general Universal Basic Income pilots underway.

  • The program's expansion into Otter Tail County, which has about 60,000 residents and includes the city of Fergus Falls, will be the first GMI pilot for rural-based artists in the country, rural program director Michele Anderson said in a statement.

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

  • All of the program's funding comes from private foundations and donors; there is no proof of income or work requirement for the recipients.
  • At least 75% of recipients identify as Black, Native and/or people of color, according to a release.

What she's saying: "The funds are meant to supplement income, not replace it. We want to help people feel more financially secure…so they can feel better about working on their art," Springboard's economic opportunity director Wone Vang 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 they're doing: Though participation was optional, around half the recipients created pieces for public art collaborations between Springboard and the city of St. Paul.

  • Artists' projects included a coloring book, music EP, stained glass installation and choreographed dance performances.

What we're watching: The next 18 months are funded, but after that, the future of the program is unclear.

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