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“The density of arts organizations and prevalence of arts events attracts residents and businesses to a community by improving its image and making it more appealing.” 

-Walesh, Kim and Doug Henton, 2001, San Jose CA: Collaborative Economics


History of the Initiative

In 2015, the Washington State Legislature granted local governments the authority to create a Cultural Access Program in their county or city (RCW 36.160). Under such authority, revenue raised from a voter-approved sales or property tax increase, can be used to strengthen access to cultural organizations and their public programming. 

Development of Inspire Olympia!

Inspire Olympia! is the Cultural Access Program created specifically for Olympia. Read the City of Olympia Resolution No. 2280 and the City Council Action Memorandum. On December 14, 2021, the Olympia City Council unanimously passed Resolution 2280, which puts Inspire Olympia! on the April 26, 2022 ballot as Proposition 1.

What are the goals for Inspire Olympia!?

  • The development of in-school and after-school programs that bring arts, culture, heritage and science programs to students at all grade levels. 
  • Teacher training with local subject matter experts from local science, arts and heritage organizations.
  • Strengthening the capacity of non-profit organizations by creating paid internships, hiring additional staff, or working on board development, diversity, and training.
  • Free or reduced admission to non-profit museums, performance and art events, exhibits, etc.
  • New programs and exhibits about BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) history and culture.
  • More programming that is accessible to people with disabilities (ASL interpretation, sensory exhibits, ADA access improvements etc.).
  • Providing support for individual artists and community organizers in our region as they develop unique projects alongside non-profit organizations. 
  • Using the arts, culture, heritage, and/or science as tools to reignite economic growth and resilience in Olympia post-COVID.
  • Supporting career-connected learning and job training programs in the arts, culture, heritage, and/or science.
  • Creating new job opportunities for community members in the arts, culture, heritage, and/or science sectors.

What is Inspire Olympia!?

Inspire Olympia! is a one tenth of one percent sales tax increase (.001) within the City of Olympia. This would be paid by anyone paying sales tax in Olympia; it translates to 10 cents on a $100 purchase. Only residents of Olympia are able to vote for this initiative. The City of Tacoma passed a similar initiative 3 years ago, which has already had an incredibly positive impact on their community. Other cities across the country, such as Denver, have also passed similar initiatives and are experiencing success in supporting and expanding local programs. 

Olympia Voter Approval

Olympia voters will have the opportunity to approve Inspire Olympia! On the April 26, 2022 special election ballot. If approved, the tax will be in place for seven years, at which point it must be renewed by Olympia voters. 

How will funding be allocated?

  • A minimum of 80% of the funds will go directly to qualified cultural organizations in Olympia. These cultural organizations may use funds to support cultural and educational activities, programs, and initiatives, public benefits and communications, and basic operations. Funds may also be used for capital expenditures, construction of improvements, and technology, equipment, and supplies related to program delivery.
  • Up to 10% will fund transportation for Olympia public school students to cultural programs
  • Up to 10% will be used for administrative costs.
If passed by the voters, a City Advisory Board will be created. The advisory board will then create parameters for distribution of funds to local qualified cultural organizations, and this advisory board will make recommendations to the City Council.

Inspire Olympia! Timeline

December 14, 2021 – Olympia City Council unanimously passes Resolution 2280 to put Inspire Olympia! on the ballot.

 April 8, 2022: Ballots drop in Olympia mailboxes

April 26, 2022 – Election Day! 

July 1, 2022 – If approved by the voters, sales tax collection will begin within the City of Olympia to fund Inspire Olympia! The tax will be in place for seven years, at which point it must be renewed by Olympia voters. 

How can I help?

Who is eligible to receive funding? 

Non-profit organizations in Olympia whose primary purpose is the advancement and preservation of science, technology, visual or performing arts, zoology, botany, anthropology, heritage or natural history AND who provide programming and experiences for the general public are eligible for cultural access funding. Organizations located outside of the City may be eligible if most of their services are provided within the City.

Those organizations specifically excluded by the enabling state law from receiving funds include: the state, county, or city itself; and organizations that fundraise for redistribution to multiple cultural organizations, radio or television broadcasting networks or stations, cable communications systems, internet-based communications ventures or services, newspapers, or magazines. Link to section of authorizing law.

What is a “cultural organization”? How is Cultural Organization defined?

For the purposes of this program, "cultural organization" is defined as a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is the advancement and preservation of science, technology, visual or performing arts, zoology, botany, anthropology, heritage or natural history AND who provides programming and experiences for the general public. Link to section of authorizing law.

How can cultural access funds be used?

Eligible organizations can use cultural access funds for cultural and educational activities, programs, and initiatives, for communications and basic operations including staffing, for capital expenditures or acquisitions including acquisition of or construction of improvements to real property; and for related technology, equipment, and supplies. It is also possible for programs to provide cultural access funds to support the development of new community-based cultural organizations. Link to section of authorizing law.

Why a sales tax and not a property tax?

As a regional hub for entertainment and employment, Olympia draws many visitors from outside the city who spend money here, including over half a million visitors to our State Capitol (pre-pandemic), and state, higher education, and health care workers. By collecting a sales tax, the contributions of these many visitors are captured and reinvested into our community. 

Why not make it a County-wide program?

Under the legislation that created the cultural access program, counties were given the first opportunity. After June 30, 2017, if counties did not act, individual cities were eligible to create a cultural access program. Thurston County did not take any action by that date, allowing individual cities within the county to move forward.

Will a higher sales tax hurt Olympia businesses?

No. Olympia will remain competitive with neighboring Tumwater and Lacey where the sales tax rate will also rise one-tenth of one percent, from 9.4% to 9.5% in 2022. 
Sales tax rates range from 7.5% to 10.6% across the state, with the highest average rates found in Pierce (Tacoma is 10.3%), Snohomish, and King Counties. At 9.5% Olympia's rate will be competitive in the county, and below many cities in Western Washington.

How much money will the added sales tax raise?

It is estimated the increased in sales tax will raise around $2.3 million per year. This increase is equal to ten cents on every $100 in consumer spending in Olympia. 

Who will be on the City's Advisory Board?

The advisory board will have nine (9) members who are representative of the Olympia community and the groups that the program is intended to serve, including public schools and traditionally underserved populations.

How does cultural access promote equity?

Equity is enhanced through focused efforts to make cultural programs and experiences readily available to people and populations traditionally excluded due to barriers like cost, transportation, prejudice, accessibility, and systemic inequalities. Equity is also advanced by making programs available to public school students, ensuring that everyone has access -- resources, transportation and opportunity -- to participate in high quality extra-curricular learning such as musical instruction or dance lessons, or robotics for instance.
Cultural Access can increase opportunity and exposure through:

  • In-class activities and after-school programs available to all students in the Olympia School District.
  • Activities and events in neighborhoods, community centers, libraries, and schools, with extra emphasis on areas with greater need due lower income levels, fewer public parks and public transit options, and similar measures.
  • Free transportation to bring people to programs and to bring programs to more people.
  • Free and reduced-price ticketing, and scholarships.
  • Bringing the work of Black, Indigenous, people of color, low-income, or who identify with other under-represented groups, to broader audiences, encouraging their leadership within cultural organizations, and increasing our community’s experiences of diverse cultures.
  • Amplifying the voice of smaller cultural organizations who often have difficulty fundraising, through direct support.
  • Encouraging diverse representation on governing boards of local cultural nonprofit organizations, and funding training and development. 

How will we reach underserved populations?

A primary means to reach underserved populations will be through the public schools cultural access programs, through which the program can target cultural programming for schools and grades with a high percentage of low income students, and also ensure that programs are available in every neighborhood in Olympia through neighborhood schools. 
Another important method will be through the grant application and review process, by giving additional weight to grant applications that seek to serve and include traditionally underserved and under-represented groups. Along with direct services to these populations, cultural organizations can be encouraged to demonstrate diversity, equity and inclusion through meaningful representation in hiring, board membership, intern and volunteer work forces, collaborating partner organizations, and in the design and development of programs. In placing value on inclusion within the grant application process, the task of creative outreach is placed with the cultural organization and inclusion is a systemic effort, not just a service delivery goal. 

What accountability measures ensure funds are spent as intended, and how will the program measure outcomes?

All programs that receive cultural access funds must be able to demonstrate public benefit. With the help of a nine-member Advisory Board, program and grant criteria will be developed for Olympia's cultural access program that reflect the values and priorities of our community and the public benefits of cultural access described in the enabling law and listed in the City Council resolution passed in December 2021.

Programs will respond to these criteria through a grant application process, and if funded, will need to report on the public benefits they achieved using cultural access dollars. The Olympia School District will design specific measures to help track the impact of cultural programs on student success and learning in the schools. 

The Cultural Access Advisory Board will regularly report on expenditures and program data, measurable outcomes and participation.

My nonprofit cultural organization is not in Olympia, will we qualify for cultural access funding?

Possibly. The focus is on our local non-profit cultural community. However, cultural organizations outside the city boundaries whose services are offered primarily within the City or primarily for City of Olympia residents, may qualify.

Can cultural access funded field trips go to places, events and activities outside of Olympia?

Yes! Local organizations may offer programs and experiences that are outside of the city limits, if the primary audience is Olympia residents or Olympia School District students.

My kids go to private school, can they get free admissions (scholarships, summer programs, etc.)?

Yes! Cultural Access will serve all Olympia residents, including school children who are within the boundaries of the Olympia School District, whether they are in public or private school. However, in-school and after-school programs will only be available at Olympia public schools. 

I live in the county but we have an Olympia address, will we benefit from cultural access?

Yes! Residents in the entire region, including those outside of Olympia's boundaries, will experience the benefits of expanded programs, new events, the creative work of strengthened cultural organizations and their positive impact on the economy. All schools in the Olympia School District will have cultural access programs available to teachers and students, and you may be eligible for reduced-price ticketing and other benefits.  

Who will administer the program?

The City of Olympia will administer the program. Tacoma Creates is currently the only other cultural access program in the State, and is also administered by the city.

What if my organization doesn’t have non-profit status?

Organizations who are not registered nonprofits may participate in a number of ways:

  • They can contract to provide services and expertise to other, eligible nonprofit cultural organizations. 
  • They can partner with larger nonprofits who serve as sponsors for their programs or events.
  • Some cultural access funding will be available for organizational development and capacity-building to assist in nonprofit development, especially for new or emerging organizations.

How does this funding support small non-profits?

One of the program’s goals is to support and encourage small cultural organizations. These organizations can create programs to grow and expand. It is anticipated that Olympia’s program will provide capacity-building support for new and emerging organizations, with the goal of helping them to meet program eligibility requirements. Larger organizations may have existing capacity and experience that will enable them to move quickly with programs that provide significant public benefits (after school programs for example).

Will cultural access funds go to the Armory?

The City is not eligible to receive cultural access funds except for the purpose of program administration. Cultural organizations that operate in City facilities, however, can receive funds. For instance, a cultural organization housed in the Armory Building could receive funding that they may use to pay rent or to make tenant improvements.

I’m a local artist, how will this help me?

Individual artists will benefit through opportunities to collaborate with eligible organizations who receive cultural access funds. Only cultural organizations in Olympia who have 501(c)(3) status and who provide public programs or experiences in the arts, culture, science or heritage as their primary purpose, can receive funding. "Matchmaking" to bring artists, culture-bearers, and subject matter experts together with eligible cultural organizations who want to provide cultural access services, especially in the schools, will be a part of the program strategy.

I’m a local business, how will this help me?

The arts are a proven economic driver, and community investments in the arts around the state have proven results. Revenue coming into the economy through local cultural institutions sets up a positive, self-perpetuating cycle: creativity improves quality of life and community health as it creates jobs and generates economic activity – making the community a better, more attractive place to visit and to live – which generates even more revenue to invest back into the community.

In Tacoma in 2015 for example, non-profit arts groups generated $74.6 million in economic activity. Audiences of 2.7 million people added another $62.6 million in related spending for a total of $137.2 million for the city, and this generated $14 million in local and state government revenues and 3,656 jobs, according to Americans for the Arts, Arts and Economic Prosperity 5, Tacoma Report, 2017. With the passage of Tacoma Creates, their city's cultural access program, this impact has only grown.

I’m a small non-profit doing (name your game), will this help me?

Possibly! If you are in Olympia, and your primary purpose includes the advancement or preservation of science or technology, the visual or performing arts, zoology, botany, anthropology, heritage, or natural history, and you provide programs and experiences available to the general public, you can apply to receive funding. 

I’m with the (your name here) club in Olympia, will this help me?

Possibly! It is understood that small organizations often have a hard time fundraising, especially those representing diverse cultural groups. The program will seek support smaller organizations in a few different ways:

  • If your program already meets the definition of a “cultural organization” you can apply for funding.
  • If your program doesn’t meet every element of the definition, you may be able to partner with an existing program that does.
  • It is anticipated that Olympia’s program will provide capacity-building support for new and emerging organizations, with the goal of helping them to meet program eligibility requirements.

I have an idea for a new (festival, music, community, kids, entertainment, dance, theater, art, food, design, etc) event in Olympia, will this help me?

Yes! If the festival or event serves to advance or preserve science or technology, the visual or performing arts, zoology, botany, anthropology, heritage, or natural history and is available to the general public, it could receive funding. You will need to meet the definition of a Cultural Organization or partner with another group that does.

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