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Senate endorses bill for money to promote local Utah arts, culture

A Senate committee got a small taste of culture Friday during a hearing on proposal to give more money to Utah arts organizations.
A Senate committee got a small taste of culture Friday during a hearing on proposal to give more money to Utah arts organizations.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate committee got a small taste of culture Friday during a hearing on a proposal to give more money to Utah arts organizations.

The Madeleine Choir School sang and Utah Symphony violinist David Porter played, letting their performances serve as their testimony for SB194.

Porter was headed out skiing when he received a call to attend the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee meeting.

"I realized I needed to sacrifice my ski day for this," he said.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, is proposing to create the Arts and Culture Business Alliance, which would administer up to $1 million a year to promote and encourage development of the arts throughout the state.

"This is the soul of our state," Dabakis told the committee.

"In Utah, the arts are much more important than STEM. You're going to have to take my word on it," he said referring to the money Utah spends on science, technology, engineering and math education. "We need to make sure that as we build our widgets we keep our soul in the arts."

The alliance would be made up of six members appointed by the governor and a representative from the state Department of Heritage and Arts.

Leaders of several organizations told the committee the money is sorely needed to develop programs not just in cities on the Wasatch Front but in rural Utah as well.

Clive Romney, executive director of Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts, said the money would help promote culture heritage tourism, which attracts visitors to stay longer and spend more money.

"The multiplier effect will be huge if much of it is spent in rural Utah," he said.

Sandi Kirkendoll, chairwoman of the South Jordan arts and cultural development board, told the committee, "The truth about art is that it brings joy to everyone who comes in contact with it."

It didn't take much to convince committee members that. Chairman Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, told Dabakis, "You had me at hello."

The committee unanimously endorsed the bill. It now goes to the Senate floor.

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