Thursday, April 28, 2011

Arts in Action

I went to the Arts in Action event at the Goodman yesterday. Lots of media outlets reported on it because Rahm was there and an audience member asked him if he was going to tax non-profits. This comes up because Boston’s mayor has asked non-profit institutions in Boston to up their voluntary tax payments to the City and because earlier this year the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a hospital in Peoria had to pay property taxes even though they are a non-profit because they do not provide enough free services to the community. I don’t think it’s an issue for most of us, I think it’s an issue for hospitals and universities that take up loads of space and use loads of services and have huge endowments and don’t pay any taxes. I’m not saying they should, I’m just saying I think that’s the issue. You can read about Boston here. Sounds like we will be paying for our water though…Aquarium be warned.

But the event was a great conversation and I’m sorry that they didn’t report more about that. An architect, a retail owner, a community organizer and an artist and urban planner talked about their businesses and how they create spaces in which they can thrive. I loved it because it wasn’t about the arts and what’s the problem with the arts, it was about going outside of our usual box and exploring new ways of making our worlds more creative and productive. Our thinking needs to go in that direction if we are to move beyond some of our stale old models. I was impressed by all the work these folks are doing. Our friend Rocco was there as was a representative of HUD. They talked about the NEA Our Town initiative and HUD projects that have arts at the core.

I am delighted that MacArthur Foundation, Arts Alliance Illinois and Goodman partnered on this and made it happen. I hope there are more like it in the future.



Deb said...

In the blog I say I don't think property taxes are an issue. I don't mean that I think we should pay property taxes. Definitely not. I mean I don't think we will be asked to pay property taxes.


silentk said...

I agree, Deb. It was a fascinating event. And fun to be there on so many levels.

I did hear Mayor-elect Emanuel to say that the NFP property tax issue is something he would need to "look at."

But he did move on to say not-for profits would need to pay for water. (Think of all of the toilet flushes combined each theater night at Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Remy Bumppo, Theatre Wit, Court Theater, etc. etc...)

So, are we soon to see a theater toilet tax? [Insert the score to Urinetown here.]

Unless the building is structured as a not-for-profit, the landlord/owner is already paying these business taxes. Smaller venues pay to offset these costs in their rent. So, it should not affect a vast majority of the artistic venues in Chicago.

Major institutions? Yea, they should pay a water bill.

I think Mayor-elect Emanuel gave a hard, honest answer. Everyone in Chicago will need to sacrifice.

silentk said...

Clarification on the Mayor-elect's response may be found here:

and here:,0,4874903.story