Dan Harpole 

Dan Harpole is the Director for the Idaho Commission on the Arts.

BW: How did you feel about Boise when you first came here?

DH: The night before the interview, I couldn't imagine living in Boise. But after a few minutes of being here, I knew I would stay.

Are you an artist?

I wouldn't call myself that. My son is better than I am.

As far as arts are considered, where is Idaho in comparison to other States?

"We have an annual budget of about $1.4 million. That puts us somewhere in the middle, about 32 out of 50 states regarding per capita budget support. I oversee a staff of 11 that really works to administer resources fairly. We fund grants and tech support for artists and arts organizations throughout the state. As director, I do a lot of traveling and advocating for public support for the arts.

What is the scope of arts organizations around the state?

There are over 40 active local arts councils and 125 nonprofit arts organizations in Idaho. For a state this size on a per capita basis, we are in the top 10 in the country.

You were elected president of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies this year at the conference hosted here in Boise. What does NASSA do?

NASAA works closely with the National Endowmeng for the Arts to serve state arts agencies around the country. This year we facilitated a conversation with Senator Larry Craig that enhanced NEA funding by $5 million. This was a big step in getting conservative elected leaders to look to their senior senator and see that he sees the value of funding the arts. We're gearing up to ask the state legislature for ongoing enhancement for grants and awards. I think we'll get something. But legislative funding is $20,000 less per year than it was seven years ago. This reflects tough economic times, but we really feel like we can make a case for bringing more resources into the Idaho community."

Why do politicians and arts organizations have a bad relationship?

There are problems on both sides. The legislators are challenged to balance funding for a lot of competing interests, and discretionary money is scarce. On the arts end, those that benefit from public money haven't always taken it upon themselves to advocate and express gratitude for it. But things are improving. There is an increasing awareness that arts play a significant role in the economy and quality of life. That can leverage quite a bit of support.

What advice can you give politicians?

The third biggest aspect of Idaho's economy is tourism. "Cultural" tourists tend to stay an extra night and spend more per capita--that's an economic plus. As tourism becomes more important to commerce and labor and the Governor's Office, we hope to form a task force to identify the assets we have in Idaho and enhance and strengthen those assets around the state.

What else is in the works at ICA?

We're working on a one-time enhancement for a grant called Cultural Facilities that pays for anything from feasibility studies to bricks and mortars to public art projects. We also want to make technical improvements that will ultimately help us move toward online granting in the next two years.

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