Question 5 challenges arts community to match bond funds

Joe Kernan
Posted 10/29/14

About 75 people came to the Ocean State Theatre on Monday to express their support for ballot Question #5 on the Nov. 4 ballot statewide. The bill would authorize the state to issue bonds in support …

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Question 5 challenges arts community to match bond funds


About 75 people came to the Ocean State Theatre on Monday to express their support for ballot Question #5 on the Nov. 4 ballot statewide. The bill would authorize the state to issue bonds in support of a range of artistic, cultural and historic cause across the state.

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian welcomed his fellow supporters and, lest there was some doubt about his position on the matter, he said:

“We’re here today to heighten awareness to Question 5, which is a $35 million bond on the November ballot that will help fund improvement and construction for arts and preservation sites throughout Rhode Island.”

Avedisian checked off a number of organizations in Warwick that he has supported but his real purpose was to introduce other advocates who can explain the benefits of a robust artistic and cultural presence in the city.

Randall Rosenbaum, director of the Rhode Island Council on the Arts, told the people that arts are what makes communities worth living in and:

“[Question 5]” is focused on jumpstarting our economy. Old buildings and historic structures are expensive to maintain, and the cost of fire safety and making those structures accessible to everyone drains resources that could be going for programs.”

Rosenbaum pointed out that the many events from artistic groups fuel the economy in ways that are less obvious.

“Restaurants are full when these events are held,” he said. “Even babysitters get a benefit from them.”

Paul MacDonald, president of the Providence Federated Labor Council, also reminded people that arts events and institution building benefit a broad spectrum of economic interests.

“I have been on the board of the Convention Center for 20 years and a member of the Providence Performing Arts Center board for 15 and I can tell you that supporting the arts and historic sites have a real benefit for our brothers and sisters, whether in the hotel and restaurant business or the plumbers, carpenters and masons, we all have a piece of the arts.”

Col. Ron Barnes of the Pawtuxet Rangers told of how a preservation grant allowed the Rangers to preserve and maintain their building in Pawtuxet. He noted that their building was originally completed in 1843 at a cost of $800 but that is hardly what it would cost to build now. Preservation was the right thing to do on a lot of levels.

“Now we have other groups that use our building for their meetings and events and allow us to make this cornerstone of our local history remain strong,” said Barnes.

But it was Aimee Turner, producing artistic director of the Ocean State Theatre Company, who hammered home the economic message.

“This [theatre] is a brick and mortar project,” she began. “It was a former car dealer and it was unused. We needed plumbers and masons to put it together.”

She said passage of the bond would create 600 temporary jobs and 600 permanent ones.

“Question 5 is building Rhode Island’s future … It will provide for the long-term stability to arts groups and one of the fastest economic drivers, serving 12,000 people and opening up all the arts organizations that put people to work.”

Briefly described, approval of Question 5 will issue general obligation bonds, refunding bonds and temporary notes to fund $35 million to fund capital improvements, preservation, and renovation for artistic, public, non-profit arts and historic organizations. The bonds will provide matching funds for the money non-profits raise with their own efforts. Most of the funds will go to specific organizations but a certain amount will be available, by application, for groups like the Ocean State Theatre itself.

Approval of this question will authorize the state of Rhode Island to issue general obligation bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes in an amount not to exceed $35,000,000 to fund capital improvement, preservation and renovation projects for public and nonprofit artistic, performance centers, historic sites, museums and cultural art centers located throughout the state of Rhode Island, to be allotted as follows, on condition that the organization has already raised or has pledges to raise matching funds:

Trinity Repertory Company, $4,647,750, for the Lederer Theater and the Pell Chafee Performance Center, both in Providence, used for performance facilities, educational instruction, production and administration, including reimbursements of advances of up to $1,500,000 expended for ongoing fire code upgrades.

The Rhode Island Philharmonic is allotted $2,390,250

for their Carter Center for Music Education and Performance in East Providence, for teaching and learning performance and administration.

The Newport Performing Arts Center gets up to $4,216,800 for the Opera House in Newport to be used as a multi-cultural performing arts and educational facility.

The United Theater/Westerly Land Trust will get as much as $2,369,440 for the United Theater in Westerly for use as space for performing arts, fine arts showcase, arts instruction, cinema, public television station and program administration.

The Chorus of Westerly, as much as $1,054,200 for the George Kent Performance Hall in Westerly for music and arts performance, teaching and rehearsal space, administrative and community function space.

The Stadium Theater Conservatory in Woonsocket; $2,108,400

for set construction, costuming, rehearsal, voice, acting and dance studios and administrative spaces.

2nd Story Theater gets $1,054,200 for performance venues in Warren, including concessions studio/classroom space, set construction, shop and administrative offices.

AS220, $2,108,400 for their facilities in Providence used for performing arts, dance studio, youth and adult education, gallery and artist live/work space.

WaterFire Providence will have $3,162,600 to develop a 27,000-square-foot historic warehouse in the Valley/Olneyville neighborhood for its headquarters, multi-use community arts center, visitor center, education center and arts and creative industries incubator.

Other funds, about $6,887,960, will be allocated by RISCA; in 1:1 matching grants to other nonprofit cultural organizations that lease or own their performance space, and for RISCA’s expenses for the program. In awarding such grants, RISCA shall take into account, financial need; the availability or actual expenditure of matching funds for the projects; available gifts or grants for projects; the amount of square footage to be improved; the geographical location; and characteristics of audiences benefited.

State Preservation Grants Program will offer $5 million for cities, towns and non-profit organizations to preserve, renovate and improve public and nonprofit historic sites, museums, and cultural art centers located in historic structures in the state of Rhode Island to be administered by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.