IMPROVING OUR CREATIVE CLIMATE
Utah’s cultural businesses are are significant contributors to the strength of Utah’s economy. There are many exciting and creative ways that government and cultural businesses can work together to improve the economic health of our state and to attract out of state cultural tourists. Not all of these ideas are appropriate to the state level or legislature as some make more sense on a municipal level.
PROPOSED IDEAS (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
In addition to creating new works of art, artists-in-residence within non-arts state or municipal departments can participate in creative thinking and solution building.
The arena of “Arts AND” another sector is a hot buzz idea on a national level. While the list below says art, any of the combinations can apply to create connections between humanities, history, heritage, and more.
- Arts and Transportation (Transportation American is working on an NEA Our Town grant around this topic)
- Arts and Racial Equity;
- Arts and Social Justice (Think work around prison pipeline, immigration, street vendor codes, specifically Boyle Heights in Los Angeles);
- Arts and the Environment;
- Arts and Workforce Development (bringing creativity/productivity to work force, increasing work retention and attraction;
- Arts and Housing;
- Arts and Civic Engagement
- Mayors can use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for cultural projects. The idea is that local government can provide seed money and/or the use of the bully pulpit, further, the arts and culture can do many great things to help with local economy. The primary idea with this philosophy is of “investing” in culture, not “giving money” to it.
- There is nobody better than artists and cultural nonprofits to bring excitement, creativity, and vibrancy to a suppressed neighborhood.
- Cultural and/or public art master plans can be used to connect cultural businesses into the larger economic vision of a community.
- Creative thinkers/artists/nonprofits can be used as idea generators for creative uses as well as sources for raising the profile of a neighborhood through ideas such as:
- Main street programs, get arts groups to put stuff in the vacant windows/stores.
- Hennepin Theatre Trust has the largest popup shop program, Made Here. It’s the largest storefront initiative of its kind in the nation, in its sixth iteration filling more than 40 vacant commercial storefronts over 15 city blocks in West Downtown, Minneapolis with MN based creativity. They have produced 336 displays in the past three years featuring a minimum of 40% artists from communities of color and equal men and women. They have an advisory panel with 19 artists and arts professionals from diverse backgrounds who curate the project blind twice per year. Their application is very simplified, they do not ask for an artist statement, resume, or exhibition history. Every selected artist is paid $500 and given professional installation assistance, professional photography, a dedicated page on our website, and a documentary short for those who are interested.
- SLC’s greenspace program.
- REDUCED RENT/Assistance with studio space, event space, buildings, rehearsal space, recording space etc.
- Property tax // if you’re working to attract businesses to your community by waiving property tax, TREAT NONPROFITS THE SAME. We are job creators and economic drivers.
- Building cultural facilities such as the Eccles Theatres in both Logan and the new one in SLC are central core buildings in their respective downtowns. Even small scale such as the Empress Theatre in Magna or the MARC in Moab can drive the cultural soul of a town.
- % for art programs, iconic public art can drive tourism and identity for your municipality // % for art programs can be statutory or cultural (i.e. just a policy of a municipality)
- Art in crosswalks, signage, transportation hubs, etc.
- Municipal governments can create Cultural Districts - with our without tax incentives.
- Governments sometimes fund these via bed or tourism taxes within the Cultural District boundaries, but it can be done within municipal budgets and can also be done fairly cheaply.
- Great examples: Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas, and South Carolina recently started cultural districts program (South Carolina’s is a bed tax)
- Recent legislation passed in Utah makes it difficult to create new historic districts. As heritage sites are a tourist draw, changes could be made to deregulate historic districts.
- Nonprofits need help to reach financial sustainability. The municipalities that help nonprofits reach financial sustainability, attract more cultural businesses to their town.
- Increased unrestricted funds: there is significant funding for programs and special projects; it is hard to find funding to cover general expenses, employee salaries, and marketing dollars. It’s also hard to keep the lights on if a nonprofit’s primary source of revenue is restricted dollars that can’t cover items such as rent and utilities.
- For-profit cultural businesses such as individual artists and galleries have a hard time finding start up investments.
- Increased access to legislative appropriations; it is sometimes hard for smaller organizations to find success through appropriations.
- New possible sources of funding:
- Increasing granting budgets of state or regional arts councils, or at least staying even with inflation
- RAP-type taxes, including statewide
- Bed/tourism taxes
- Healthcare is a big issue. It is difficult for small cultural businesses (for profit or nonprofit) to secure healthcare for their employees.
- Be the facilitator between cultural entities and hospitals/providers. Help subsidize plans, make connections for them, etc.
- Additionally, his is especially difficult for individual artists who are often self-employed and have difficulty getting coverage, even with the new exchange
- Local Governments can create a cabinet level arts and culture advisor, i.e. Boston & Philadelphia, Moab just added one. SLC used to have a cabinet level cultural position, now it’s a Senior Advisor role, but still important.
- Recently Kansas City, MO added a city level director – there are a number of examples across the country. REGULATIONS Cultural businesses, especially nonprofits, are highly regulated in the state of Utah. While transparency and reporting is necessary whenever public funds are involved, nonprofits within UT are asked to do far more reporting than are for-profits who receive legislative appropriations. The health of Utah’s cultural businesses could improve with decreased regulation.
- Municipalities can facilitate partnership between cultural organizations and the local tourism sector to boost the local economy
- Independent artists have a very difficult time getting the word out about their art, particularly outside the region in which they live. Municipalities that help build buzz around their individual artists will attract more artists to their community.
- Houston is a great example, they have been working for the last 10 years to strengthen relationships
- Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City is a great example, they are a primary source of tourism to their community
- Partnerships can include Marketing $ for out-of-state or out-of-region advertising, helping connect cultural organizations with conventions and hotels/concierges, helping them get in brochure displays, including cultural offerings in your municipalities own advertising for what makes it a great community, etc.