Stabilizing public funding for the arts = most important work of my career

downtown-fall

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be part of collaborative efforts to develop public policy  aimed at improving the quality of life for a specific stakeholder group locally, across the state and even nationally. But helping lead the endeavor that could stabilize public funding for arts in Columbus with an admissions/ticket fee is a public policy effort that will benefit all of us in Columbus—children, families, seniors and businesses—for generations to come. And I consider it the most important effort of my career.

Tom Katzenmeyer

Tom Katzenmeyer, president of the Greater Columbus Arts Council

Imagine for a moment, what Columbus’s future can become, if double the number of children – more than 1.5 million each year—could participate in arts education opportunities.

Think about the impact for our neighborhoods if more free- and reduced-cost access to arts and cultural experiences were available to families in all neighborhoods including Linden, Weinland Park, Franklinton, the Hilltop and the Southside.

What if we could increase the number of artists who receive funding from 300 to 600 each year?

Envision also having funds to safeguard cultural facilities that the city has heavily invested in, or owns, like COSI, Columbus Museum of Art, the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory or Nationwide Arena.

These are just a few of the benefits for our community, our neighborhoods, and our children if Columbus City Council enacts the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s proposed 7 percent fee on admissions and tickets in Columbus. For a $15 admission price, the new fee would add just $1.05 to the cost. For a $25 ticket, the additional fee would be $1.75. And for $100? The added fee would be just $7. A reasonable investment to help stabilize our arts and cultural sector that provides so much to our city. A small investment by each of us individually results in a greater quality of life for everyone in the entire community.

Our proposed 7 percent fee is a user fee that would be applied to admissions and tickets to arts, culture, entertainment (for profit and nonprofit) and professional sports in the city of Columbus. The fee only would apply to tickets costing more than $10 and to venues with audience capacity above 400. We believe this is the best and fairest of the many options studied over the years to address an important community issue—keeping the arts and cultural sector strong, protecting its 15,000 jobs and investing in our public facilities.

Our proposal suggests that 70 percent of the proceeds from the ticket fee provide operating and project support to cultural organizations of all sizes, fund arts and cultural festivals, events and projects, and provide grants to artists. The remaining 30 percent of funds would be designated to capital improvements for the publically owned arena, which is an economic engine that drives jobs and visitor spending to spur our economy.

It goes without question that the arts and cultural sector, our outstanding cultural facilities and the arena and the surrounding district are critical parts of our success in Columbus. Their combined contribution to our community’s economy, quality of life, national image and ability to attract and sustain tourism and talent are well-documented and proven.

Without the ticket fee, Columbus will slide backwards on key indicators of performance—a vital arts sector, a creative economy that employs people, a well-rounded educational and community life and major league status in the arts and sports.

We must ask ourselves: Can Columbus afford not to implement this sound public policy? Or, do we use our collective voice to ask City Council and the mayor to adopt the proposed ticket fee to keep Columbus strong economically, culturally and educationally. I ask you to please register your voice with City Council in support of our proposed ticket fee to support art for Columbus.

P.S.  A group of community and business leaders and artists are organizing efforts to let city officials know community-wide support indeed exists for the Arts Council’s proposed admissions fee. I believe you’ll know many of these individuals and might consider joining in their efforts. Here’s a link to their website protectart4columbus.com.

— Tom Katzenmeyer, connect with Tom on LinkedIn.