On Fri., Feb. 5, at 4 p.m., 125 Connecticut artists, cultural educators, and members of the tourism sector met on Zoom to discuss the bill HB No. 6119: An Act Concerning Arts, Culture, and Tourism Funding. The meeting was led by John Michael Parker, a Connecticut State Representative, who explained that the purpose of the bill would be to strengthen the arts, culture, and tourism sector in Connecticut by directing additional money into the Tourism Fund, renaming it the “Arts, Culture, and Tourism Fund” to better represent the full scope of the sector, and ensuring equitable funding among arts, culture, and tourism initiatives. Individual artists, organizations, and hotels will all have access to the funds distributed in the bill. 40% of the funds will be distributed among the arts and culture sector, and 60% will become available to the tourism sector. The allocation of the hotel occupancy tax—which consists of lodging tax, room tax, sales tax, tourist tax, and so on—will be increased to 25%. In a normal year, this would provide an additional 13 million dollars in support to the arts and culture industries, and 20 million dollars for the tourism industry. According to Parker, the arts, culture and tourism sector make up 15% of Connecticut’s economy. The approval of the bill will increase the longevity and sustainability of arts organizations once the hotel tax occupancy rebounds and stabilizes. The bill currently receives equal enthusiasm from both Democratic and Republican parties.
Kandie Carle of the East Haddam Stage Company voiced the concern that big organizations such as the New Haven Symphony will receive the majority of the funding, rather than smaller organizations and individuals. “How can we do this? Artists have been incredibly fragile and financially exposed during COVID. How do we support and keep our community of artists here? I really love the community development part of this.” Sole proprietors, gig workers and independent artistic folks are often overlooked. They cannot compete for line items as individuals, and most are not set up to be not for profits. The main concern voiced to Parker was how he envisions the added percent helping the underrepresented artistic folks, who are intrinsic to tourism with music, dance performances, and theatre. Artists in the call voiced the desire for the added funding to highlight all of the arts—to see the money go to artists and have it be more artist-driven. The new director of Connecticut Landmarks, Aaron Marcovitch, was worried about the lack of heritage tourism including the upcoming 250th and the expanding voice of underrepresented histories… “I would love to see targeted funding for historical houses and sites and some coordinated tourism voice about the importance of history,” he said.
Quoting activist Pauli Murray in the meeting, IfeMichelle Gardin said, “True community is based upon equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together.” Amongst the diverse richness of Connecticut’s artist, culture and tourism population, the message to come together, unify, and support the bill was evident throughout the meeting. Joining the meeting, John Michael Parker gave each state representative 60 seconds to share their ideas, resources, and organizations’ purposes towards the future of the arts in Connecticut. Among these speakers, were Amanda Roy of the Greater Hartford Arts Center, Amy Wynn from the American Mural Project, David Green from the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County, Jason Mancini of Connecticut Humanities, John Prins of the CT Alliance for Arts Education, John Reid from Fairfield Theater Company, Steph Burr from NWCT Arts Council, and Mandi Jackson from Music Haven.
Parker urges artists to write a specific testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to call one of the state legislatures regarding the way COVID has impacted you, and speak up about what you would like to see more of in the bill, how you would like to see the funds distributed to the arts, culture, and tourism sectors, and/or any other thoughts you have on the bill.
Make your voice heard, and show support for the artists in your community by voicing your opinion on this bill!