Last week, Cultural Tourism DC Executive Director Linda Harper was one of several arts advocates who testified before The Council fo the Disctrict of Columbia in support of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Harper spoke about how much the arts has and continues to accomplish for the city - economic development and increase in tourists. She expressed her concern about the decrease in the funding for the arts by millions of dollars. Click here to learn how to get involved. Below is her complete testimony:
Restore Grant Funding for DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities
Testimony before the DC Council
Linda Harper, Executive Director, Cultural Tourism DC
April 26, 2012
Thank you Chairman Orange and Committee Members for allowing me to speak today.
My name is Linda Harper. I am here to speak on behalf of Cultural Tourism DC’s 230 arts, cultural, and heritage nonprofits organizations and our vibrant neighborhoods. As Members of this organization we work across the District and can be found in every ward of the city. And I am here to speak about economic development and jobs and the role of the arts and heritage community plays in that.
Most major cities today are looking for ways to keep or expand their local jobs and for good sound investments…for ways to use their dollars wisely. Most would jump at an investment that returns 7 to 1. At a minimum, that is what the arts community brings to Washington, DC. There is no requirement for seed money. There is no need to create a pilot program. A program is in place with a proven track record …that is the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. We have proven it works. We just have to continue to invest in it. To investment in a proven economic development process with a solid jobs program. It is an investment in the city’s neighborhoods… and it is what makes this city great.
You’ve heard about other neighborhoods and I won’t go on there. Can you imagine the U street corridor without the vibrancy of galleries, restaurants and concert venues? And that only reinforces that there is a reason that merchants near the newly opened Howard Theater are abuzz!
We can also speak to Emancipation Day – it in its totality was about heritage and cultural. Within our own organization 11 cultural and heritage amenities created a citywide scavenger hunt which engaged young people and heightened the emancipation day events.
You heard Judith speak about Passport DC. Passport DC as a program of Cultural Tourism DC received a grant from the DC commission of the Arts and Humanities. This grant allows us to open over 75 embassies across the city and to present to DC residents and visitors over 40 cultural programs. It is primarily for DC residents but we also know, attendees also came from 40 of the 50 states and we touched over 180,000 people making them aware of the international cultural community only available in DC.
Just moments ago you asked Elliott Ferguson, the CEO of Destination DC, about Washington Harbor. It’s not about the buildings there; it’s about the ambiance, the venues, the vibrancy and the attractions they have. We have lost public art to that facility. We no longer have the sculpture the Awakening. We have also lost the Children’s Museum to Washington Harbor. Without arts support what else will we lose to them?
Beyond the tremendous economic return on investment that the arts and heritage organizations offer the city, there is also the issue of jobs. Elliott mentioned that there are over 71,000 jobs can be related to the tourism and hospitality industry. From the cities own study on the creative economy 75,000 jobs can be associated with the creative industry. Maybe it’s time to talk about Tourism, Arts and Hospitality as our lead industry.
I challenge you to look at the current economic development programs you are now supporting or about to create and determine if they are giving you the same return. In a time of recession, all of the arts community has turned to best practices and are being managed and operated as small businesses. This investment is Small Business Development at its finest!
Simply stated, the arts and heritage community are a vital part of the financial eco-system of the city as employers, vendors, and consumers. We add foot traffic and vibrancy to neighborhoods. And As Mr. Pettigrew said a short while ago; we are #1 in acquiring young professional to this community. We’re proud of that population growth…. Maybe we should ask those young people why they are coming and what makes them want to live in our city. We believe you will find the answer has much to do with the arts and creative community and the vibrancy it provides. The creative economy was once a priority of this city and its government with a budget for the DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities of over $10 million. To ignore it now would only undermine the work the city has done to date.
We understand it is tempting to use resources towards the problems of the city and neglect what is working well. But this is a great opportunity to build upon what is working. Our 230 member organizations, their many employees and their members are simply asking you to invest wisely to support and restore the grants program of the DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities.
Thank you Chairman Orange, Committee and staff.
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"I looked at the new brochures for the Deanwood and Civil Rights Heritage Trails. I am always astonished and amazed at the work you do and the quality of it. Beautiful."