Supporting the Arts Pays off for Neighborhoods and the Economy

Letter to the Editor, as published in the Indy Star on June 1, 2013.
Supporting the Arts Pays off for Neighborhoods and the Economy

There were a lot of ways Indianapolis showed what kind of city it is when thousands of people came to enjoy Superbowl XLVI – from handwritten welcome notes from grade schoolers placed in every hotel room to the blue and white scarves knit for volunteers who helped keep things running smoothly. But there was something else more permanent and pleasing for all of us – and future visitors to enjoy. Super Bowl XLVI included “46 for XLVI,” an impressive citywide mural program. The program supported the creation of 46 new murals in our neighborhoods and downtown that celebrated the arts, our city and its rich history. One of my favorite Super Bowl memories is taking my kids to different Indy neighborhoods to see the colorful murals – or to just happen upon one where I did not expect it. In fact, the mural of Kurt Vonnegut on Mass Ave sparked a talk with my kids about one of my favorite authors and I got to tell them Vonnegut grew up in the same part of town where they are growing up.

The success of “46 for XLVI” shows that our city is ready to embrace public art as a way to celebrate who we are. That is why I am introducing a proposal to the City/County Council called “percent for art.” The aim of the proposal is to identify a dedicated funding source (1% of the city’s investment in a capital project) that can be tapped to continue what the mural project began – supporting creative ways to tell our story. Every Indianapolis neighborhood has a story to tell and a history to celebrate. Imagine if, over time, neighborhoods used the program to express their own unique identity – and we all took the time to seek out the new neighborhood murals, statues, sculptures and more. We could spend time in neighborhoods where we might never have gone, and meet people we might never have met.

This program will not only be good for neighborhoods, it makes economic sense, too. We already know that the arts in Indianapolis have an annual economic impact of $384 million, employ 13,310 residents, and return $42 million each year in the form of taxes. This program will only make those numbers grow, especially as the program rolls out and, over time, begins to attract tourists.

With our own “percent for art” program, Indy will join Kansas City, Chicago, Chapel Hill, Seattle, and Philadelphia in embracing public art as a way to celebrate our city and drive tourism.

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