Since my first term serving Ward 2 on the Council, Washington has transformed from a city with few good restaurants and limited entertainment options to a destination with world-class art museums, festivals and theater performances and top-rated restaurants.
The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities has played a central role in our evolving community for 51 years. Since 1967, the commission has provided grants, educational opportunities and a variety of other programs to nonprofit organizations and individuals. The commission supports arts education in public schools and public charter schools across the District.
I know firsthand how effective an education in art can be to a child. My own children were immersed in programs from a young age and they continue to use their arts education today.
Following a performance oversight hearing on the Commission on the Arts and Humanities, I recently learned that if the commission were to fund every grant application it received, it would cost around $44 million.
Earlier this month, I — along with Council members David Grosso, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Robert White and Brandon Todd — introduced the Commission on the Arts and Humanities Dedicated Funding Amendment Act of 2018, which would dedicate a quarter of a percent (.25 percent) of the existing sales and use tax to the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. The legislation was co-sponsored by Council members Charles Allen and Anita Bonds and was referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue.
Identifying a dedicated source of funding for the commission is something I have been advocating for years. In the past, I have included it as a budget recommendation several times and even introduced other variations of this proposal. I’m encouraged that a majority of Council members agree with me and signed on to this legislation. I hope to work collectively with my colleagues to include this proposal in the fiscal 2019 budget.
Investing in the arts and humanities should be a priority. When we invest in the arts, the District experiences a large return. Our children receive a rich, diverse, full education, tourists want to visit our city and residents have even more reasons to live here.
Thanks to the Council’s help, the commission’s budget was increased to $29 million in fiscal 2018. The District has no shortage of funding needs, but providing a dedicated source of funding for the Commission on the Arts and Humanities should be a top priority.