Campaigning for Culture: Arts & Heritage Day 2017

On the morning of February 8th, in a book-lined basement room on the State Capitol grounds, dozens of Washingtonians came together for a single purpose: to advocate for the arts. So began another Arts & Heritage Day in Olympia, an annual day of advocacy and legislative meetings organized by the Washington State Arts Alliance and attended by ArtsFund staff members Sarah Sidman and Andrew Golden. This year’s advocacy agenda called for support of five cultural issues.

First and most closely related to ArtsFund was requesting full funding of the state’s Building for the Arts program. The program was created by ArtsFund and The Boeing Company in 1991. It proved so successful in its early years it was made into law, brought under the Department of Commerce, and became a model for similar state granting programs. This year’s request is $12 million for 16 projects across Washington from Bellingham and Bremerton in the west, to Walla Walla and Chewelah in the east. ArtsFund is coordinating the advocacy effort of the organizations seeking funding, steered by Program, Advocacy & Operations Coordinator Andrew Golden. Advocates spoke with legislators with projects in their districts over the course of the day about the projects and the economic benefits to funding them. To learn more about this year’s Building for the Arts request, see the project packet ArtsFund made here.

Next, advocates asked legislators for their support of two cultural bills. First is proposed legislation to allow local governments to create “creative districts” with access to economic development resources (HB 1183 / SB 5300). If passed, districts would be proposed by local communities and certified by the Washington State Arts Commission, which would then boost community development and tourism. The other bill would renew the state’s motion picture and film industries tax credit—set to expire this year—for an additional ten years (HB 1527 / SB 5502). The bill would also authorize an additional tax credit for a “major motion picture that portrays a significant event in Washington,” with the goal that historical events are depicted where they actually took place.

Finally, advocates spoke with legislators about two other budget-related issues. First, they urged maintaining the budget of the Washington State Arts Commission’s budget, which was cut by about 25% in the Governor’s proposed budget. And lastly, full funding of the Heritage Capital Projects Fund was requested—a program similar to Building for the Arts providing designated funding for “capital needs and facilities that interpret and preserve Washington’s heritage.”

With advocacy as one of the three pillars in ArtsFund’s mission, ArtsFund has been committed to showing a strong presence at Arts & Heritage Day and meeting with legislators about cultural issues. The day is a prime example of the ways in which we drive this work to advance community priorities through the arts. Overall, it was a day well spent with arts advocates from across Washington in support of arts and culture.

To stay up to date on state and local arts advocacy issues, follow ArtsFund’s Facebook page. For more information about ArtsFund’s advocacy work, contact Andrew Golden at andrew@artsfund.org or (206) 788-3048.