Arts Initiatives Win Big in the 2006 Vote

The midterm elections appear to bear good news for artists. Eleven states passed ballot initiatives that sought to boost funding of the arts.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

LYNN NEARY, host:

Democratic politicians weren't the only ones celebrating the election results this week. Arts groups around the country were also declaring victory. Eleven different ballot initiatives in support of public funding for the arts passed in California, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Utah. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: The advocacy group Americans for the Arts reports that these ballot measures - 10 local and one statewide in Louisiana - will infuse millions of dollars into arts programs around the country. Many of the initiatives will support arts education, which has been subject to significant cuts in recent years. Others will help build or renovate cultural facilities.

In San Leandro, California, a $109 million bond issue will help create an arts education center. In Louisiana, artwork sold in the galleries within the state will no longer be subject to an inventory tax. And a tax on cigarettes - 30 cents a pack - will help fund arts and cultural groups in northeast Ohio.

Mr. PETER LAWSON JONES (Cuyahoga County Commissioner): We knew it was more palatable than a property tax or a sales tax or an income tax.

BLAIR: Peter Lawson Jones, commissioner for Cuyahoga County based in Cleveland, says the ballot measure passed with 56 percent of the vote. He says like all around the country, arts groups in northeast Ohio have been struggling to stay afloat. This is believed to be the only cigarette tax that directly funds arts and culture.

Mr. JONES: Well, I look at this as a win-win situation. If people continue to smoke, at least they'll be contributing to a good cause. But if they stop smoking, all the better.

BLAIR: That cigarette tax is expected to generate some $20 million annually. It's just one of 11 ballot measures supporting the arts, all of which passed. Nina Ozlu, executive director of Americans for the Arts Action Fund, says they allow the public to show where they'd like to spend their money.

Ms. NINA OZLU (Americans for the Arts Action Fund): What elected officials do once they get into office as legislators in determining how much of their treasury funds they want to use for funding the arts, they're making decisions to cut back, which is in opposition to what the general public wants. And so that's why you're seeing a success in these ballot measures. Because when you bypass the legislators and take it directly to the public, they're saying, yes, this is what we want.

BLAIR: In Austin, six different cultural groups backed a ballot measure that asked for $31.5 million to construct or renovate different facilities. It passed with 55 percent of the vote. The Zachary Scott Theatre, Austin Film Studios and a Mexican-American cultural center are among the groups that will receive money.

As one Austin arts administrator put it, normally they compete with each other for funds. But they also know there's a lot to be gained by coming together.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.