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News / Clark County News

Vancouver’s draft Culture, Arts and Heritage Plan finished

City council will explore how to pay for its proposals

By Katy Sword, Columbian politics reporter
Published: April 10, 2018, 6:01am

It’s taken many more months than Jan Bader anticipated, but Vancouver’s draft Culture, Arts and Heritage Plan is finally complete.

Bader, the city’s program and policy development director, has spent nearly a year in talks with a consultant and city advisory committee to develop a revamped plan. Vancouver does have a cultural plan of sorts that dates back to 1997, but the relevant positions, funding and steering commission are nonexistent.

Armed with a 40-page plan and 35-page Power Point presentation, Bader asked the city council Monday for four things: appoint a cultural commission, hire a cultural services manager, restore the cultural grant program and form a public art program. The startup costs associated with the first steps total $327,000.

If all goes according to plan, Bader and others envision that Vancouver will be a city of diverse interests with the ability to integrate culture, arts and heritage into the daily lives of its residents.

“We will steward the exceptional assets of Vancouver’s heritage and natural settings, making contributions that enhance the identity of Vancouver, welcome all community members and visitors, strengthen the local economy and improve the quality of life,” the plan’s vision states.

The plan includes 47 points of action, but focuses on three main areas: building cultural capacity, strengthening the cultural core and expanding cultural space.

Something relatively simple, and free, the city can do to start is make sure city leadership is present at existing arts events.

“We’ve been so out of our arts and cultural events for so long even just having a presence would make a difference,” Bader said.

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Other ideas include showing art at more city-owned buildings, building a performing arts center and renovating spaces like the Slocum House to allow for more public art access.

Facilitating artists living in Vancouver also made the list, such as dedicating space on the Fort Vancouver National Site to create affordable live/work spaces for artists.

But these plans require money the city doesn’t currently have. Bader also presented several revenue options. An admissions tax, for example, on tickets for entertainment venues. Implementing a 5 percent tax on movie ticket sales alone could bring in $400,000 to $500,000 annually.

“We’re the only city of any size — as we are in a lot of situations — that hasn’t implemented this tax,” Bader said.

Other revenue sources include dedicating 1 to 2 percent of public construction project budgets to public art. This type of funding is already in place on the state level. The two recently approved school district bonds mean there will be at least two new public art pieces in Vancouver’s future as the projects fall under the state’s public art requirement.

The city could also create a cultural access program that levies a 0.1 percent increase in sales or property tax. The program could generate about $3.5 million annually, but Bader said it’s not an easy sell and no other Washington city utilizes this option yet.

In general, the council was excited about the plan and the opportunities for art in Vancouver. But as Councilor Linda Glover pointed out, it’s a moot process without funding.

“I think this is the time to do it,” Glover said.

She asked staff to bring forward a funding proposal, something the council can approve without a ballot measure like the admissions tax, at the next meeting to get things started.

The final Culture, Arts and Heritage Plan will come back to council April 16 for approval.

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Columbian politics reporter