Gov. John Engler (R-MI)

Governors Arts Leadership

“The arts are fundamental to the human experience and we treasure those cultural and educational organizations that nurture them throughout Michigan. All citizens can and should be enriched by the beauty, knowledge and creativity that are at the core of the human spirit.” - Michigan Gov. John Engler

Entering office in 1990, Gov. Engler questioned the state’s ability to fund the arts and culture as the state was under tremendous fiscal challenges. Considering the difficulties, he moved forward with the funding, but saw the need for a new approach. Boldly, he challenged the arts community to do more with less, but also, to collaborate with him to produce innovation solutions to their problems.

In 1991, Gov. Engler proceeded by creating the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA). With his leadership, the state developed a unique strategic plan tackling the difficult concerns of the arts and cultural community. This plan eventually led to a stabilized and growing arts industry, to the building and the renovation of hundreds of cultural facilities, to arts and culturally related community development and revitalization, to greater fiscal accountability, to leveraged state funding, to increased funding distribution and opportunities, to expanded cultural tourism, and to improved public access to quality arts and cultural services in rural and underserved communities statewide.

Gov. Engler increased MCACA funding from $5 million in 1992 to over $26 million in 2001. He also approved supplemental funding in excess of $33 million over three years for arts and cultural projects. In 1999, he approved total state funding of nearly $100 million for arts and culture. Also, the State created a provision for over $40 million in special one-time grants for critical infrastructure needs for arts and cultural organizations. This last fiscal year, Gov. Engler also supported an 18 percent increase in arts and cultural grants.

Furthermore, in 2001, the governor created the Department of History, Arts and Libraries. This new Department brought together the Library of Michigan, Michigan Historical Center, Michigan Film Office, Mackinac Island State Park Commission and Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. While raising the visibility of these issues at the state cabinet level, it also encourages more effective and coordinated programs, as well as growth and innovation.