As the leaves begin to turn their brilliant autumn colors, many Rhode Islanders’ thoughts will turn to the annual arts festivals that complement the visual splendor of the season. The Pawtucket Arts Festival is underway, a three-week extravaganza in a city that has enjoyed economic growth, in part fueled by the creative sector. Communities from North Scituate to Wakefield will host festivals before the final leaves fall for the season.
The General Assembly continues to recognize and prioritize the critical impact that small businesses possess as powerful economic engines in building culturally vibrant communities for future generations. Within Rhode Island’s small business community is the rich and diverse creative sector that encompasses nationally distinguished organizations as well as hidden gems with over 3,000 arts-related businesses that employ more than 13,000 individuals statewide. From galleries to acclaimed performing arts establishments, the creative sector continues to grow and flourish in the Ocean State.
This past February, we worked together with Governor Lincoln Chafee to prioritize arts as part of the state’s economic focus. Alongside our partners at Fidelity Investments, the Rhode Island Foundation and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, we launched the inaugural “Rhode Island Arts Charrette,” with more than 100 stakeholders representing the arts community, government and businesses at the Smithfield campus of Fidelity Investments. This charrette, or stakeholder planning process, was critical in the development of strategies to further the growth of the Rhode Island arts sector to enhance economic development in the state. Artists and arts organizations contributed to a shared vision to distinguish Rhode Island as “The State of the Arts.”
In the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly took several important steps to implement ideas discussed during the Arts Charrette.
One of the most significant actions we took was the expansion of the statewide sales tax exemption to the purchase and sale of original works of art. As of Dec. 1, this unique incentive will help to set Rhode Island apart as a “State of the Arts.”
Since 1996, the state has established local arts districts to provide tax incentives for artists in nine targeted communities around Rhode Island. The statewide tax incentive enacted this year exempts from sales tax all original, one-of-a-kind, limited production creative works of art that were produced in Rhode Island.
We also, this year, established the “Made in Rhode Island Manufacturing Collaborative.” This collaborative will provide a locally designed “Made in Rhode Island” logo to appear on locally produced goods and services and bolster efforts to increase consumer demand for locally made products. “Made in Rhode Island” will be promoted as a brand.
Another new law will provide Rhode Island museums that are fortunate to benefit from the generosity of individuals and organizations a legal process to follow when long-term items or collections that were donated are no longer needed for display. This new process, very important within the museum community, will allow museums the ability to exhibit, conserve, transfer or dispose of items without risk of liability.
The General Assembly passed a resolution to establish the Rhode Island State of the Arts Planning Task Force, under the direction of the governor, which will work to convene stakeholders to develop a comprehensive strategic plan and to identify specific action steps that can be taken to attract, retain, support, expand and market the arts and associated creative industries in Rhode Island.
Legislation was also enacted to offer critical tax relief for the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School, to assist with continued economic growth and prosperity.
We are all collective partners in these efforts – the Senate and House, Governor Chafee’s administration, the non-profit sector and the business community. With all of us working together, our vision for Rhode Island to become “the state of the arts” will become a reality.
M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) is president of the Rhode Island Senate. Gordon D. Fox (D-Dist. 4, Providence) is Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.