4B: Pennies add up to something beautiful

“Life without the collective resources of our libraries, museums, theatres and galleries, or without the personal expression of literature, music and art, would be static and sterile – no creative arguments about the past, no diverse and stimulating present and no dreams of the future.”

That quote comes from “The Value of Arts and Culture to People and Society,” a report by Arts Council England, an organization similar to our Scientific Cultural Facilities District in that it distributes public monies to a bevy of arts and cultural entities.

Like the SCFD, the Arts Council’s goal is not only sustainability for those institutions, but also – and perhaps more importantly – the creation of thriving and diverse experiences that enrich communities, expand horizons and inspire us to reach for the best of humanity.

That’s what the SCFD has accomplished since 1988, for the incredible bargain of a penny for every $10 in sales tax paid in Jefferson County and the six other Denver metro area counties that comprise the district. Voters renewed that deal in 1994 and 2004. And we should again do so on Nov. 8 by saying yes to Ballot Issue 4B.

The amendment would reauthorize and extend the collection of the 0.1 percent sales tax for 12 more years until 2030. It also revises the distribution formula of money to the three tiers of organizations – 310 in total – that it funds. Besides Jefferson County, the other counties that receive SCFD funding are Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Boulder, Denver and Douglas (with the exception of the towns of Castle Rock and Larkspur).

The bulk of the money would continue to go to the five largest entities: the Denver Zoo, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Art Museum, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and Denver Center for the Performing Arts. But the smaller regional and local organizations would receive a larger percentage of distributions than they have in the past.

Opponents argue the tax unfairly hits everyone, regardless of whether they patronize the cultural facilities. They argue the distribution formula favors the five largest organizations, while the grants to smaller institutions would continually shrink because their share would be divided among more.

But there can be no argument that for 28 years the SCFD has succeeded in its mission of creating a dynamic, vibrant arts, science and cultural environment that is recognized far beyond the metro area.

We derive an intrinsic benefit from arts and culture: We learn. We explore. We consider new perspectives. We dream.

But arts and culture also directly energize our economy and workforce. They attract tourists and create jobs. They spill over into classrooms and education arenas. They foster collaboration and inspire creative thinking that can lead to social change. And, especially, they build community, reminding us how we’re connected while celebrating and providing needed outlets for expression and diversity.

Just last week, the nonprofit Colorado Business Committee for the Arts released an economic activity study of Denver metro-area culture. The report, released every two years, was based on grant reports from the institutions that participate in the SCFD.

The results show that in 2015:

  • Arts and culture generated $1.8 billion in economic activity.
  • SCFD distributed $53.2 million, 14.6 percent more than in 2013.
  • Jobs in the arts, science and cultural organizations grew by 5 percent since 2013 to 10,731.
  • Cultural tourists, about 18 percent of the nearly 14 million people who visited cultural attractions, added $367 million in new money to the state’s economy, the largest impact to date from that sector.
  • 3.9 million children benefited from outreach.

The SCFD institutions also are working to increase outreach and improve access to underserved communities and those who might not be able to afford admissions.

At Denver Botanic Gardens, for instance, 5.3 million people were served through the SCFD’s free days in 2015. Gardens officials realized some also might not be able to visit because they just can’t get there. So they started free shuttle transportation from community centers, such as Denver’s Mariposa Housing Authority, the Asian-Pacific Development Center and refugee communities to bring people in on days other than traditional free days – but also with free admission.

While the process may not be perfect, what the Scientific Cultural Facilities District has built in 28 years of existence can only be applauded and met with gratitude.

Its institutions – from the Denver Zoo to the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities to the Lakewood Symphony, Golden History Museums and Wheat Ridge Community Chorale – continually work to give us the joy of discovery and simple enjoyment, moments that let us breathe in a world that runs too fast.

All this for a penny on every $10 in sales tax.

The decision is easy: Approve 4B.

It’s a small price to pay for the arts.

Highlands Ranch Herald