Friday, October 2, 2009

Rally Against the Art -Tax

Held Friday, October 2, 2009 Arts Supporters raised their voices to keep the arts accessible to everyone.

Local actor, Ben Dibble, and his family attended. Ben spoke passionately imploring our government to veto the proposed tax as it would surely lead to downsizing actors as well as various jobs held in the non-profit cultural arts sector. Proudly proclaiming that he and his family are natives of, and want to remain in Pennsylvania, he explained how he may be forced to choose which of his 3 children gain exposure to the arts; his very own craft.
"I am an actor. It’s what I am skilled at and what I am trained to do. As a family, we accept that we will always live a simple, financially austere life. It is the pact you make with the universe when you decide to become an artist," he said. “I can no more envision cutting culture from my kids' lives than bringing them out here today without shoes on their feet. But if this tax were ever put into effect, I would have to ration it. Which membership would fall by the wayside to balance our family budget – Please Touch? The Zoo? Longwood Gardens? Which of our three kids gets to go to the ballet? Which to a youth symphony concert at the Philadelphia Orchestra? All of my children deserve each of these experiences, but how could we afford a family outing with the additional cost?
The truth is this: it will affect the livelihoods of countless Pennsylvanians. Here is how it could affect my family. It will add a cost to theatre tickets during an economic downturn. This will keep people out of theatres: older audiences, younger audiences, audiences who have lost their jobs or their nest eggs. Ticket sales will suffer. Theatres will have to eliminate staff positions. They will produce fewer shows. And – here’s where it affects my family personally – they will choose smaller shows with fewer actors and possibly pay those fewer actors less. Artist positions will, in a very real sense, be downsized. Fewer jobs for artists will make an already competitive market even more competitive and will make providing for my family even more difficult than it already is. And I, of course, am far from alone.

That’s how it will affect artists. But, I’ve got to tell you, it will affect audiences just as much. I LOVE the theatre audiences in Philadelphia, from the thousands of children I’ve met doing shows at People's Light and Theatre Company and the Arden, to the thousands of adults I’ve met at the Walnut, Wilma, and Lantern. In the last ten years I’ve seen these audiences grow and diversify. I want this to continue. Every, every family, no matter how much their parents make, should be able to go to the theatre together. No state should penalize its families by assuming that culture is created only for the wealthy. Especially when our non-profit theatres are working tirelessly to keep ticket prices low while continuing to pay artists a livable wage.

Culture is a fancy word, but its importance in our lives is not frivolous. It is essential. It brings people together. At the very least it brings people joy, and at its best it changes lives. It opens conversations. It sustains us. It is NOT a luxury."

 Barbara Gregson of Independence Art Studio, and a member of Art-Reach, spoke on behalf of the disability community in support of Art-Reach's work and the need to keep ticket prices low. She explained that without the help of organizations like Art-Reach, the people with whom she works would not be able to access the arts, and adding an additional cost to an already economically struggling population would ensure their allienation from the arts.

Arden Theatre Company and Please Touch Museum were among the arts organizations present.

Lois Welk of Dance USA Philly also raised her voice to the cause, and made sure that Art-Reach was included in the rally.

To learn more about the proposed tax and how you can take action visit The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.


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