The Norman Transcript

Columns

April 2, 2013

Increase public funding for arts in Norman

NORMAN — Today, Norman residents have an opportunity to increase local public funding for the arts with a simple “yes” vote.

It is so easy to take the arts in Norman for granted.

Arts programs are everywhere, something Norman residents take as “given” in our community. The weekly concerts of Summer Breeze and Winter Wind, the galleries and museum exhibits of the Second Friday Arts Walk, the drama and comedy of the Sooner Theatre and the multitude of festivals from April through July would make anyone think of Norman as a “City of the Arts.”

In-point-of-fact, some might be surprised to learn that Norman has as many arts programs as other cities several times its size. For example, 25 member arts organizations are on the Norman Arts Roundtable and only 20 members are on the Allied Arts in Oklahoma City. 

How is Norman able to produce a range of high-caliber arts programs equivalent to those of a city three times its population?

One major factor is that 33 years ago, in the summer of 1980, leaders in the arts, business and recreational sectors of our community came together and proposed a visionary idea — a hospitality tax (4 percent) collected by area hotels to support development in the arts, tourism and parks. It was, and still is, visionary because a major part of the funding was earmarked for the arts and not just tourism or economic development, as in other major cities.

For more than three decades, this unique public support for the arts has been a partner in underwriting a diverse range of artistic programs.

Today’s vote proposes to raise this same hotel/motel tax from 4 percent to 5 percent (still below similar taxes in Oklahoma City and Tulsa). If passed, the revenue will mean an additional $60,000 or more in funding for the Norman Arts Council (NAC) to then redistribute through its grant programs to Norman organizations.

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