Council approves over $264,000 in funding for city’s arts community

ST. GEORGE — Various groups in St. George’s arts community were approved to receive RAP tax funding in the amount of $264,500 by the St. George City Council Thursday evening.

St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, July 18, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“We’re very grateful to have this and so is the arts community,” Shane McAffee, the city’s leisure services director, told the city council while presenting a list of 29 approved RAP applicants.

The Art Around the Corner program, various endeavors connected to ARTS, Inc., St. George Musical Theater, the Southern Utah Comedy Guild and many others applied.

“Each year artists and groups can apply for this money through the arts commissions of their towns and they are given money depending on their need,” Councilwoman Bette Arial, who also sits on the St. George Arts Commission, said following the council meeting.

The arts portion of the RAP, or Recreation, Arts and Parks tax, counts for roughly one-third of the overall revenue the city garners annually. The remaining two-thirds are divided between recreation and parks spending.

The RAP tax was originally introduced as a ballot measure in 2014 and subsequently passed. At the time, it was estimated to produce $2 million for the county every year with St. George expected to receive half of it.

Deveren Farley’s sculpture “Power” located in the St. George Town Square. It is a part of the annual Art Around the Corner art exhibit that has also benefited from RAP tax funding, St. George, Utah, April 6, 2019 | File photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

The tax itself is derived from sales tax collected by the county and then distributed to cities based on point of sale and population. It is also in its fourth year of a 10-year lifespan.

Once the tax was implemented and funding was allocated, arts groups of various kinds approached their respective cities and the county for funding. Like other municipalities, however, St. George has requirements for these groups to meet before they are approved.

Arts organizations go through an extensive application process and are also required to report back to the council on how the money granted to them is being used. This also includes reporting public attendance at their various programs or shows, as well as having a “development officer” who can help them to eventually operate on their own.

“The applications are extensive,” Mayor Jon Pike said. “There is a lot to do and a lot of follow-up.”

Applicants must also be nonprofits.

The RAP tax funding is not meant to be handed out in perpetuity, Arial said.

Inside the renovated Electric Theater Center prior to the dedication in 2014. The Electric Theater, and groups that have come to be housed in it since, have been recipients of RAP tax funding, St. George, Utah, Aug. 28, 2015 | file photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“The purpose and goal is to help these artists – established and new start-ups – to develop,” she said. “It’s not to sustain these group with tax money. What we want to do is help them get on their feet and develop.”

However, Arial acknowledged that some in the community do not like the idea of taxes going to fund arts groups.

“I think taxation is a necessary evil and I don’t purport to want to raise taxes on things,” she said. “Often times it is hard to get money to support art because it has no taxable entity.”

The city council says it is doing its best to spread the money to groups that run the gamut of what art means to St. George residents, whether it be in the form of song, dance, literature, painting, sculpture or comedy.

“We feel this has been a wonderful use of the money,” she said.

Among the groups that received the most funding Thursday night are:

  • St. George Children’s Museum – $25,000.
  • Southern Utah Heritage Choir – $25,000.
  • Celebrity Concert Series – $25,000.
  • Southwest Symphony Orchestra – $25,000
  • St. George Musical Theater – $25,000.
  • St. George Dance Company – $15,000.
  • Stage Door theater group – $15,000.
  • Sears Art Museum Gallery – $10,000.
  • ARTS, Inc. – The DiFiorie Center – $10,000.
  • ARTS, Inc. – St. George Jass Festical – $10,000.

A full list of the applicants and the funding they were allocated can be found here.

St. George also grants $25,000 annually to the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, as it is counted among one of the top tourism draws to the county.

Ed. note: This article previously listed funding amount highlighted arts groups requested and not the actual funding approved. This error has been corrected. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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