Over the past couple decades, Atlanta has become a regional hub for arts and culture. Mayor Kasim Reed is seeking state approval to provide a consistent source of funding for the arts throughout the city. In an editorial board meeting with the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Tuesday, Reed said that many of Atlanta’s arts organizations are unable to acquire the funding necessary to stay afloat.
On Tuesday, the city asked the Georgia General Assembly to authorize a referendum to raise the sales tax in Atlanta by one-tenth of a cent to provide steady funding for arts and culture. This would increase Atlanta’s sales tax to nine percent. Reed said that if approved, the proposal will raise an estimated $10 million - $15 million annually.
Reed said the effort will not be metro wide, but it is the first step to solving a problem the city has been unable to address in the past.
The Atlanta arts funding proposal is modeled after Denver’s arts tax, which raises more than $50 million a year for arts organizations in the Mile High City. The Denver arts and cultural tax was passed by voters in 1988, and was renewed in 2016 to last until 2030.
Arts and culture has become a prominent aspect of life in Atlanta. The Atlanta Beltline features public art that showcases works from local and national artists year-round. Places like Krog Street and Little Five Points are filled with colorful murals. Outlets for artists have blossomed in neighborhoods around the city. The Goat Farm in West Midtown, various locations and events in Castleberry Hill, and the South Broad section of Downtown have played a major role in raising the profile of the arts in Atlanta.
The tax increase would provide a new, dependable revenue stream to support arts and culture in Atlanta. The proposed legislation will be put up for a vote on the November ballot.
Reed said that his administration has previously been supportive of the arts. The city recently donated $1 million to the Woodruff Arts Center’s Transformation Campaign which netted a total of $110 million.
“What Atlanta needs to become the city we want to become is a source of funding for the arts that comes every year no matter what,” Reed said during his meeting with the Atlanta Business Chronicle.