Local & State Voices

ASC board chair: Together we can deliver on the promise of ‘Culture For All’

The Arts and Science Council funds organizations like the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, which hosted the Ganttfest! celebration.
The Arts and Science Council funds organizations like the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, which hosted the Ganttfest! celebration. Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

In November, Mecklenburg County residents will vote on a quarter-cent sales tax to support arts and culture, parks and greenways and teacher pay.

The arts are one tool among many to address key county priorities, including economic mobility and racial disparities. The arts seek to address these priorities by providing relevant, sustained programming in neighborhoods that are typically under-resourced and by creating jobs in the cultural sector and beyond. Arts, science and history instill curiosity, creativity, innovation and joy in those who encounter them. These are the very attributes that will enable our children to imagine different, better lives for themselves — and to decide how to make those dreams a reality.

If we want these benefits for our children and ourselves, how do we fund them?

Using dedicated tax revenue to fund the cultural sector is common in communities across the U.S., including Cleveland, Denver, San Francisco, Kansas City, and San Antonio. If Mecklenburg County residents vote yes, the amount of new tax revenue going to the cultural sector in Mecklenburg County will represent approximately one-half of one-percent of our total city and county spending, leaving 99.5% of our public resources available to address other important community needs such as education, health and human services, and affordable housing.

If we vote yes, together we can stabilize our existing arts organizations and greatly expand the cultural sector’s work in building community, addressing racial disparities and ensuring geographic equity — all top priorities for Mecklenburg County. Together we can deliver on the promise of “Culture For All.” A yes vote would provide culture for all residents, regardless of what they can afford. That means free museum days, free and reduced-fee programming, and festivals across the county. “Culture For All” also means providing programming where our residents live — not just Uptown but in neighborhoods north, south, east, and west, and in the towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville.

Informing voters about the public value of the arts and culture and how this tax will benefit residents is critical, and the issue is complex. Recognizing this, the Arts & Science Council has created a new podcast, “Culture For All,” where listeners can learn about the proposed tax and hear stories from residents about the ways the sector builds community, bridges across difference, enhances preK-12 education, drives the economy, and supports creative individuals. Starting on July 8, you can listen to the podcast episodes on ArtsAndScience.org, Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Listeners can also ask questions and provide feedback.

We are grateful that the public will have the final say on this important issue. We will be working hard between now and November to explain the value of these investments. Together we can make Mecklenburg County a better place to live, work, and raise a family, by expanding our green spaces, standing with our teachers, and making meaningful public investments in the cultural sector.

Valecia McDowell is Board Chair of the Arts & Science Council.
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