[Editor’s Note: This post holds some interest for today’s vote in American Fork on a proposed 0.10% sales tax increment to support parks, arts, recreation, and culture, but its lasting value is a cogent explanation of why and how government funding of the arts makes sense. Heidi Rodeback is a local musician and served on the American Fork City Council for eight years.]
At American Fork’s October 28, 2014, city council meeting, I was present for Carlton Bowen’s statement in opposition to the PARC tax, which has been reported by Barbara Christiansen at the Provo Daily Herald. I agree more than disagree with Mr. Bowen on the following, but the disagreement is significant.
“Funding of the arts isn’t a proper or primary role of government and is better done without government funding,” he said. “At the federal level, government funding of the arts has led to obscene and disturbing art that taxpayers would never voluntarily fund. Citizens shouldn’t be forced to fund art that they find offensive, through taxation. At the local level, funding of the arts can lead to the same problems as at the federal level, where art offensive to the community is funded with tax dollars because the rules allow it and the city gets threatened with a lawsuit if they play favorites.”
Yes, the road to public arts funding is fraught with peril. Still, good government must navigate this road successfully, as arts are essential to civil society. As a professional musician, I have given this subject a lot of study, and I believe that arts funding, while not a primary role of government, is nevertheless a proper role. A community can navigate successfully by remembering the following: