ARTSY: Oh Governor, Where Art Thou!


[Photo by TED ADAMS]

lindsay-harris-friel.thumbnail.jpegBY LINDSAY HARRIS-FRIEL ARTS CORRESPONDENT Word on the street is that there will be a protest on Friday, 9/25 at 12 noon at 15th and Walnut at Governor Rendell’s Philadelphia office, to protest adding a sales tax to tickets sold to non-profit arts organizations. This means anything from Philadelphia Museum of Art tickets to Fringe show tickets. Seeing as ticket sales for arts events are on the decline anyway, this only serves as a deterrent to getting people to attend arts events and organizations.

The other rumor that’s been thrown around is that sports events and movies are exempt from this amusement tax. This isn’t entirely correct. The Inky has the story about last night’s annual meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The Eagles charge a 5% sales tax on all home games, which goes back to the city. But they aren’t subject to exactly the same sales tax. In a recent Pittsburgh Gazette article, journalist Alice Carter pointed out that to date the state of Pennsylvania gives out $14 million in grants to the arts, but generates… guess how much… wait for it…$282.98 million in local and state government revenue. So, for those of us that aren’t so good at math, that’s a return on investment of $268.98 million dollars.

This is kind of a no-brainer. Taxing arts tickets serves as a deterrent to consumers. From the standpoint of artists and organizations, it’s a direct slap on the wrist. Good luck to The Kimmel Center’s box office employees, who already have to explain the $2 building and restoration fee to an unsympathetic crowd. “It’s to keep the ceiling of the over-150-year-old Academy of Music from falling down on your head while you’re watching Leonard Cohen,” would be the easiest way to explain it. On the other hand, this might not be such a bad way to die. I can tell you that there is at least one box office rep in this town who is just going to love explaining that the tickets to Revival Burlesque are now $16.05, and has to scrape up $3.95 change for a $20 where before she could just hand them a $5. The result is slower lines, unhappy patrons; the proposed Cultural Activities Fund (which has no details explained yet) can’t clean up that mess.

But if the arts organizations aren’t selling as many tickets, that $282.98 million in local and state government revenue is going to drop, effectively shooting the government who put the tax there in the first place in the foot. If a tax on cigarettes is intended to not only raise funds for CHIP, but also serve as a deterrent to smoking, how is this supposed to encourage notions of not wanting to hurt arts organizations and artists? So, anyway, for what it’s worth; 15th and Walnut, 12 noon on Friday. Think about it. If you can’t come to the protest, The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has other ways of taking action.

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