ST. GEORGE – The Washington County Commission finalized a $325,000 annual commitment to the nonprofit Tuacahn Center for the Arts at its regular meeting Tuesday.
County officials committed $125,000 per year from RAP tax revenue and $200,000 annually from the transient room tax.
“This is money that is set aside for culture and art in our community,” Commissioner Victor Iverson said, “so this is not money that could be used to patch potholes or to do anything else.”
Tuacahn’s benefits extend beyond its shows, Iverson said, through economic impact and by way of the Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts charter school, which is associated with the performing arts center.
“Tuacahn not only does a great job in art, but I believe there is an effect throughout our county because of the high quality of art that is produced at Tuacahn,” Iverson said.
Tuacahn is the second biggest economic driver in Washington County next to Zion National Park, pumping $75 million into the county’s economy, Tuacahn Executive Director of Development Jeff Fisher said. The arts center attracts about 265,000 people each year to its shows, with a half to two-thirds of those individuals coming from outside Southern Utah and 30 percent coming from outside the state.
“Tuacahn is a community asset and an economic driver,” Fisher said. “It uplifts the quality of life of the people of Washington County and, in fact, the whole state of Utah and also is an economic engine.”
“It’s not always common that arts organizations are economic drivers to the extent Tuacahn is,” he added.
The recreation, arts and parks tax was passed in the 2014 general election. Of the total RAP tax funds collected, the county receives 15 percent off of the top for cultural organizations countywide, Iverson said.
The remaining 85 percent is distributed to communities based on population and point-of-sales purchases and is divided up by the individual communities among arts, parks and recreation projects and organizations.
Nonprofit arts organization
Many view Tuacahn as a successful business and wonder why it needs public funding. However, Tuacahn is not a business but rather a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization.
Since its inception, Tuacahn has relied on donations. The arts center has paid more of its own costs than any other Utah arts organization, Fisher said, including the Utah Symphony and the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
Tuacahn is Utah’s largest nonprofit theater organization, he added, bringing in $11 million in annual revenue, which is equal to 96 percent of its operating costs.
But after 20 years of use, Fisher said, the theater has critical needs: the seating, parking lot, roofing and mechanical systems are wearing out, and sound and lighting systems need to be updated with current technology.
Capital needs for the facility include $4.7 million in deferred repair, replacement or enhancement of amphitheater seating, stage flooring, parking lot resurfacing, roof replacement and modernization of the lighting and audio systems, Fisher said.
A $4.8 million arts center building is also planned to accommodate growth, add additional seating and provide needed indoor rehearsal space.
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