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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 5, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Public-arts funding

Support bill and local artists

Concerning The Seattle Times’ May 22 editorial [“Bill to limit public art should be vetoed,” Opinion, May 2] regarding proposed legislation to make artists residing outside of Washington ineligible to compete for public-arts funding for two years: Stating it is shortsighted is the opposite of what really will occur.

Enacting this legislation is important economically and is also artistically sound. The economics relative to utilizing Washington artists relate to the money artists spend locally and the taxes that they, as businesses, are required by license to pay. This is money that stays in the state.

There are two false premises in the editorial. One is that other states will follow suit and Washington artists will end up on the losing end. This has not proven to be the case, as most arts commissions select works based on merit. To not accept this premise is demeaning to our own arts commission.

Secondly, you state that the Washington State Arts Commission is not offering huge commissions to out-of-state artists. Thirteen out of 35 is 37 percent –that’s a Hall-of-Fame number for a baseball player. The numbers that matter are the percentages of money allocated for those contracts. Research I published in the 1980s on public spending in the arts, specifically the Seattle Arts Commission, showed project money was 41 percent for Northwest artists versus 59 percent for out-of-state artists. I have seen no evidence to show any changes in this attitude.

The statement that this proposal would close the doors for great works of art is an insult to the art community of this state. One should only look at the art of Washington artists acquired by the state.

— Phillip Levine, Seattle

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