‘Art brings us so much joy’: RAP tax funds come to the rescue of local arts groups

St. George Dance Company dancer Rebekah Wainwright performs on stage at the Electric Theater, The company received RAP tax funding during the 2020 allocations. St. George, Utah, April 13, 2018 | Photo by Parker Grimes, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Despite tight budget conditions from the COVID-19 pandemic, St. George’s leadership has awarded a host of arts groups Recreation, Arts and Parks Tax funding.

Tony Piersanti as Mike (back) and Kailey Simmons as Katherine in St. George Musical Theater’s production of Disney’s “Freaky Friday,” St. George, Utah, June 28, 2019 | Photo by Monica Johanson, St. George News

Although $275,000 had been budgeted this fiscal year, $250,000 will be distributed to 29 organizations. Instead of lump-sum payments, distributions will be spread throughout 2020-21 on a quarterly basis.

“What we are doing with many of the capital outlay expenditures for this fiscal year, where we are able to spread them out, given the uncertainties that we are looking at … it’s basically a backstop to make sure that we don’t overextend ourselves,” said City Manager Adam Lenhard. “We should be fine, but things are still (tenuous).”

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 annually with St. George anticipated to receive half of the money raised.

The tax itself is derived from sales tax collected by the county and then distributed to cities based on point of sales figures and population.

The recommendation to award the grant funds was made by the St. George Arts Commission, which reviews RAP applications.

“Giant Spider” by Deveren Farley was one of the sculptures featured during Art Around the Corner’s 2018-19 outdoor exhibitions in St. George subsidized through RAP funding. St. George, Utah, April 13, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The St. George City Council had the final say Thursday in a unanimous vote.

Council members maintain they are doing their best to award the money to groups that run the spectrum of what art represents to St. George, whether in the form of song, dance, literature, painting, sculpture and comedy.

“Art brings us so much joy,” said Councilmember Dannielle Larkin. “It tells our story and shows our community values. Art just does so much. Even if you don’t like it, it starts a dialogue. You share emotions about it, you share feelings. Some things you love and some things you don’t … I am glad we have it.”

Larkin called out some of the new entries into the St. George art community such as the Film and Media Alliance of Southern Utah.

“We are becoming known for our art and it’s a blessing for the people who live here, it’s a blessing for our visitors and it’s a blessing for our economy,” she added.

Among the groups that received the most funding are:

  • Celebrity Concert Series – $22,000
  • Southern Utah Heritage Choir – $22,000
  • Southwest Symphony Orchestra – $22,000
  • St. George Children’s Museum – $22,000
  • St. George Musical Theater – $22,000
  • St. George Dance Company – $15,000
  • The Stage Door Theater – $15,000
  • The Difiore Center – $10,000
  • Film and Media Alliance of Southern Utah – $10,000
  • Dixie State University’s Sears Art Museum – $10,000

For a complete list, see 2020 City of St George RAP Tax Allocations.

Conspicuously not receiving any RAP funding was the Southern Utah Performing Arts Center.

The arts commission felt that because the center was a brand new startup, more conceptual than anything else and their business guidelines were “too preliminary,” the city would take a wait and see stance welcoming them to apply next year.

The city also granted $25,000 to the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins City in a separate agreement. The rationale for the award was that Tuacahn is one of the top tourism destinations in the county.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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