Sen. Richard Cohen (DFL-MN)
Minnesota State Senator Richard Cohen received the 2009 State Legislator Arts Leadership Award for his arts advocacy throughout the state. Cohen has been the chief legislative champion of the arts in Minnesota since his early days in the state Senate. He ensured that the arts were included in the monumental 2008 Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment. This state constitutional amendment, which passed by 56 percent of the vote in November, creates dedicated funding for the arts for the next 25 years in the Minnesota. No other state constitution includes dedicated funding for the arts. He shepherded the amendment bill through six legislative sessions and firmly stated: "This will not pass unless the arts are in it."
In the 2009 legislative session, as both the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and the Conference Committee on the Amendment, Sen. Cohen made sure that a large portion of the dedicated funding would be directed to the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils, allowing funds to reach every county in Minnesota. State funding for the arts will increase from $10 million a year to more than $30 million a year, as a result.
Sen. Cohen was also instrumental in both creating and preserving the City of St. Paul Cultural STAR program. Now in its twelfth year, the program allocates a portion of the city's half-cent sales tax to arts and culture in the city's cultural district.