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Arts, culture and tourism leaders say consistent funding will spur economic growth

As many of the state’s arts and culture organizations continue to struggle in the aftermath of the pandemic, Connecticut’s General Assembly is considering several bills that would provide a steady stream of funding intended to build momentum and consistency within those organizations.

One such bill would call on the state Department of Economic and Community Development, or DECD, to provide grants to arts and culture organizations across the state. At a public hearing late last month, Arts and culture leaders came out in droves to support the bill.

“The message is clear — our cultural institutions want funding that is meaningful, reliable and equitable,” Dr. Jason Mancini, executive director of Connecticut Humanities, told the legislature’s Commerce Committee. “This will help us to become strong, vibrant, resilient communities and organizations that best serve our citizens.”

To that end, Mancini told lawmakers about a funding road map, written with input from hundreds of stakeholders in the arts, culture, and tourism sector in Connecticut. That road map suggests it would take a yearly investment of $58.5 million to galvanize the sector.

“That breaks down to $25 million for the Office of Tourism’s statewide marketing, $17.5 million for the Connecticut Cultural Fund, $8 million for arts, culture and tourism earmarks, $5 million for infrastructure and $3 million for workforce development,” said Mancini.

Mancini suggested to lawmakers that the state would be missing a big opportunity if the sector isn’t fully funded by 2026, the 250th anniversary of the nation’s independence.

“Connecticut has an incredible story to tell, our history, heritage and diversity,” said Mancini. “And if we are not preparing for that, we’re going to miss out terribly on our ability to bring to bear the power of arts, culture and tourism.”

The bill would also require the DECD to “identify strategic goals, establish metrics and establish an accountability structure for such grants.” DECD Commissioner Alexandra Daum told lawmakers that this part of the bill is unnecessary, since there are systems already in place that cover this requirement.

The Commerce Committee voted to refer the bill to the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee for consideration.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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