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New Citizens’ Coalition Forms in Support of GCAC Ticket Tax

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega New Citizens’ Coalition Forms in Support of GCAC Ticket Tax
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A new coalition has been formed to rally support for the 7 percent ticket fee proposed to Columbus City Council by the Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC).

Protect Art 4 Columbus, led by residents, small business owners, and artists, launched on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 8 at an event for Momentum, a GCAC beneficiary.

Momentum is a nonprofit offering dance, music and performance classes to more than 1,000 students in elementary schools around Columbus. They hold short- and long-term programs, all culminating in a year-end performance at Davidson Theatre.

An entirely free and inclusive program, open to children with disabilities and behavioral issues, Momentum received $5,000 from GCAC for its programming this year. It’s one of a number of GCAC’s partners that could get a bigger cut should the ticket fee be approved.

“A lot of the children that participate in Momentum don’t have immediate access to the arts, so through our program they experience dance music and performance, and it’s really an effort to help them develop life skills,” says Liane Egle, Momentum Executive Director. “Increased funding means more children can experience it, and that really is a benefit not only to the children but to the entire community.”

The proposed ticket fee, recently revised to exempt small venues and events, aims to generate $14 million annually in order to sustain and grow its support fund for arts and cultural nonprofits throughout the city. The 7 percent tax would be applied on admission to events at any for-profit or nonprofit organization in Columbus, including concerts, performances, and movies, as well as events at the Ohio Stadium, Nationwide Arena, Schottenstein Center, Franklin County Convention Center, and the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

The controversy around the ticket fee surrounds the involvement of the publicly owned Nationwide Arena, which would get 30 percent of the money raised to fund long overdue capital improvements.

“I think there’s a lot of misperception about the Nationwide piece,” says Protect Art 4 Columbus member Jim Sweeney. Sweeney founded the Franklinton Arts District and says GCAC played a pivotal role in its growth, sponsoring the Urban Scrawl, Go West, Art for Franklinton and a number of art festivals through its various programs. “If you look at the numbers, it’s really spelled out that Nationwide actually benefits the program rather than hurts it. In other words, more money is put into the pot of arts funding than is taken out.”

According to its members, Protect Art 4 Columbus formed somewhat organically. James Ragland, a community activist, reached out to GCAC to find a way to show support, and was then connected with Sweeney and other members, which include: southwest Columbus neighborhood leader Stefanie Coe; restauranteur Jeff Mathes; artists Eric Rausch and Michael Bush; singer/songwriter T. Wong; Short North Stage co-founder Peter Yockel; former Corna Kokosing Construction CEO Mark Corna; Crabbe, Brown, James managing partner Larry James; and community volunteer Mary Jo Green.

The ticket fee will go through City Council, and therefore won’t need the approval of the public to be implemented. Ragland says the purpose of Protect Art 4 Columbus is less about changing the hearts and minds of the city, and more about showing council itself that there is a wide range of support for the ticket tax. He says funds from the tax would directly benefit many who haven’t had the opportunity to voice their support for it themselves, such as the children involved in Momentum’s dance classes.

“I couldn’t afford to get vocal music lessons anywhere or anything like that, so any opportunity I had to go sing and dance and act on the stage, I’d use that up. So there’s a lot of kids that are in the city that are like that, and if they don’t have a voice then they’ll never be heard, and that’s who I’m here to kind of represent,” Ragland says. “I think council needs to know there’s a cross section of this community that’s supportive of this so that they can really make an informed decision.”

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