March for Cultural Trust Fund Print
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Tuesday, 19 February 2002 18:00
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs (IDCA) has articulated a brilliant concept in the form of a bill currently before the state legislature to provide funding for arts and culture. The IDCA is asking legislators to appropriate $1 million annually for the next 10 years to help seed a new “cultural trust” for operational support of arts/culture-related organizations throughout Iowa. (See story on page 17.) The beauty of this trust is that it gives the private sector an opportunity to leverage whatever dollars it donates to local arts/cultural organizations because the state would be obliged to match those same dollars in its trust fund. For example, if a company donates $10,000 to the Quad City Symphony, the Symphony can report this donation to the IDCA, which in turn would trigger a matching $10,000 from the state to be deposited into the trust fund. This way, the original $10,000 stays at home, where it was donated, but it has leveraged an additional $10,000 for the state’s cultural coffers. It provides additional incentive for the private sector to give to the arts.

What is truly exciting about the Cultural Trust is the legitimacy finally being given by policymakers to arts and culture as critical factors in economic development, in education and curriculum, in maintaining a competitive edge in attracting a workforce, and in contributing to a higher and more sustainable quality of life in Iowa.

Vision Iowa recognized the importance of culture in the larger scheme of things and put its money behind projects that would increase and enhance cultural amenities throughout Iowa. There are few greater purposes for public funds than this. The positive impact that Vision Iowa will have on the futures of the communities that were fortunate enough to participate is illimitable. Now it is time for the private sector to step up with more aggressive contributions of both time and money.

In the past few decades, with a few exceptions, our city fathers and business leaders have not been keen on largess. Giving for its own sake does not appear to be widely embraced in this community. It generally must benefit the donor in some economic sense.

Private sector contributions are the primary resource for the implementation, operation, and longevity of most cultural programming throughout the nation, including many extracurricular educational efforts. Iowa ranks as one of the lowest in per capita spending of tax dollars for culture-related programs. Couple this with the lack of private donations when compared to the wealth in Iowa communities and suddenly the dearth of largess becomes disturbing.

Contributing to the well being of our cultural organizations should not be confused with development projects that utilize state and local tax dollars as funding leverage under the umbrella of cultural amenities.

Thanks to community efforts to embrace and consolidate arts and culture organizations in the Quad Cities into the Arts Mecca of the Midwest, the private sector has an opportunity to buy into a branding concept that will benefit individual stakeholders, and the community as a whole. Private sector largess can now achieve more meaningful and long-term aspirations.

Meanwhile, future funding for arts programming could be a reality as soon as this year if the cultural trust is established with the passage of House File 2288 this session. The IDCA has organized Cultural Advocacy Day on Thursday, February 21, in Des Moines—a massive gathering of citizens who support the arts in any form. Anyone who believes that art and culture is an important and vital component of our society is encouraged to join in the march to the State Capitol to show solidarity and support for the bill. The march begins at 10am. The event will provide opportunities for citizens to meet with their respective state representatives to discuss the importance of this innovative legislation. In keeping with the tradition of American political rallies, and for the listening pleasure of participants in this cultural advocacy event, an 80-piece brass band will play in the Capitol’s rotunda. Keep in mind that this is an election year, so legislators should be held accountable on this critical issue. Does he/she support the arts? If so, so they support House File 2288? To learn more about the cultural trust, the legislation (including who your legislators are), and the IDCA, visit www.culturalaffairs.org.
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