Voters in RI are asked to return to the polls to vote on several bond proposals aimed at creating jobs and new opportunities in our state. Polls are already open; the last day to vote is March 2nd.
I urge you to vote YES on Question 6 on your ballot to provide much-needed capital funds for infrastructure at cultural and historic organizations. The bond is for $7 million, $3 million of which will go to the RI State Council on the Arts and RI Heritage and Historical Preservation Commission to be allocated through a competitive matching grant process. While $3 million is a big number, the capital needs of the cultural community statewide exceed $70 million. This investment, while smaller than the others on this ballot, is just a start for organizations working to maintain and improve their homes so they can welcome us back.
Non-profit arts organizations and the artists they serve have suffered greatly during the pandemic. It is estimated that, in RI, 87% of artists have lost employment. For a sector that generates $2 billion to the state’s economy, that is a staggering loss, not only for the artists and the organizations who serve them, but for our economy as a whole. In our city, live indoor performance has entirely shut down, museums struggle with limits to attendance and entire festivals have been cancelled. All of us are missing gathering for music or dance performances, seeing each other at openings and enjoying the splendors of Newport’s cultural and artistic heritage together.
Newport’s cultural institutions have, through creativity, ingenuity and devoted support, survived the last year. But for them to regain their economic clout, to create and sustain good jobs, they need investment. Locally, Island Moving Company, the Newport Art Museum and the Preservation Society are all looking to these funds to jumpstart a new beginning. Recent history proves that investments like this ultimately pay for themselves, and more. Just six years ago, Rhode Islanders approved the $35 million Creative & Cultural Bonds initiative, which – over its lifetime – helped drive nearly $90 million in construction activity and created more than 1,500 good, long-term jobs. If the capital facilities bond you, the voters, invested in in 2014 is a guide, these $3 million will generate three times that amount in construction jobs, as well as the increased employment expanded facilities will require.
If you love the arts like I do, approving Question 6 is probably a no-brainer. But even
if you have no interest in the arts, I hope you’ll still join me in voting YES on
Question 6 simply because it’s in the best interest of our state.
The arts and culture are vitally important to us in Newport County – they attract tourists, they enliven our children’s education, they give us hope when everything seems dark and dreary. Let’s invest in our cultural community. Don’t forget to vote, and Vote YES on 6!