'Cultural Core' group poised to start spending money to promote downtown arts

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 7 2012 10:16 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — The first money from an agreement between Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County to promote arts in the downtown "Cultural Core" will be spent this year.

The new 20-year agreement will draw as much as $500,000 per year from sales taxes collected in the area bordered by South Temple and 400 South and 200 West to 200 East. The money will be spent in the slightly larger Cultural Core, from North Temple to 400 South and 600 West to 400 East.

Unlike the Zoo Arts and Parks tax, the new money committed to the downtown arts zone will not fund major venues or existing organizations but rather "shine a spotlight" on untapped arts activities, said Phil Jordan, division director of the county's Center for the Arts.

With organizations like the Utah Symphony and Ballet West as the bricks in the downtown structure, a new Cultural Core board will look for ways to be the mortar between the bricks.

A presentation to the Salt Lake County Council Tuesday led Councilman David Wilde to caution against spending too much money downtown at the expense of projects elsewhere in the county. "I question how much support there would be if it was formed as a ballot initiative instead of something that was brought to nine council members," he said. "I just want to be fair with everybody."

Councilman Jim Bradley said he doesn't disagree that the needs of the entire county should be on the table, but said it is typical for metropolitan areas to cluster their arts venues and programs in a downtown area.

"You don't go to San Francisco and travel four miles to see the opera and 40 miles in another direction to see the ballet," he said.

"We certainly see our facilities as regional," Jordan said. "We consider our audiences to be all of Salt Lake County, if not all of Utah."

An advisory board will take applications for projects that aren't already funded by ZAP taxes and look for ways to use both large venues and niche spaces in the core area.

The new tax-funded program also does not address future venues, like the Broadway-style theater, identified as the Utah Performing Arts Center. Salt Lake City in December agreed to issue up to $18 million in bonds to design a 2,500-seat theater capable of hosting first-run Broadway touring shows.

Building the theater is estimated to be a $110 million project. The city wants the county's financial participation there, but a detailed discussion between the two political entities is still in the future.

Email: sfidel@desnews.com Twitter: SteveFidel

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