Ritter trumpets bill to aid the arts industry

By Anthony Bowe
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Colorado’s surging arts and creative industries may be bolstered by more jobs and expansion thanks to three new pieces of legislation soon to be introduced, according to Gov. Bill Ritter.

Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien joined Ritter Tuesday in announcing the legislation at a packed art studio in Denver’s River North Art District (RiNo).

Ritter didn’t say how many jobs would be created by the legislation, but noted that the bills would clear the way for more growth in an industry that has added nearly 8,000 jobs to the state economy since 2002.

“Today’s proposals will allow us to continue making progress by capitalizing on this sector’s immense potential for innovation, creativity and growth,” Ritter said.

The pending Art in Public Places Cleanup Bill, which will be co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, would clarify language in existing law to assure that 1 percent of capital spent on state-funded building construction is set aside for public art. Steadman said the bill would eliminate a funding discrepancy in projects financed using certificates of participation.

The Film Incentive Cleanup Bill, to be sponsored by Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, would eliminate a restriction requiring that production companies filming in Colorado spend 75 percent of a film’s non-payroll budget in the state in order to qualify for incentives. The amendment, Ritter said, will free up $300,000 in incentive tax rebates that went unused last year because of the restrictions.

The bills won’t cost the state anything, Ritter said.

“We are going to have a lot of fun with this, and I’m hoping that it is a slam dunk easy one that we can get passed and signed into law very quickly,” said Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, who is co-sponsoring the Colorado Creative Industry Division Bill, which would consolidate three existing arts programs within the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The newly created division, Newell said, will make it easier for the state office to strengthen the state’s creative industries.

The bills originate from recommendations made by the Colorado Council on the Arts, a subdivision of the Economic Development Office. According to an economic study commissioned by the CCA, Colorado’s creative industries have become the state’s fifth largest employer, with more than 186,000 people working in the arts.

Steadman said he expects the bills to be introduced next week.

“It’s about time that we acknowledge the business of the arts in Colorado — the jobs in the arts and the tourism and the revenue to individuals and small businesses across the state,” Newell said.

As a job category, creative industries encompass live performances, film and TV production, architecture, interior design and new media enterprises such as video games, among other artistic endeavors.

Anthony@coloradostatesman.com