Statement on State Percent for Art, March 23, 2016

We at Louisiana Citizens for the Arts have been following state bill HB216, which caps the amount spent on the State’s  Percent for Art Program.  While this issue, raised by Treasurer Kennedy, may have been motivated by political interest and upcoming Senate campaigns rather than fiscal responsibility, it is worth illustrating a few details.

The cultural industries in Louisiana are the state’s second largest employment sector and produce diversified revenue during a time when other economic areas such as oil & gas are struggling. Culture in Louisiana is the engine that drives tourism, which in turn produces extraordinary revenue to the state without tax hikes or burdening our citizens and communities.

It should be also noted that Louisiana ranks 40th in per capita arts funding, and is 11th out of 15 of the traditional Southern states. Louisiana currently funds culture at .48 per capita, where the Southern average is .72. This is a regrettable and unnecessary decline, as Louisiana ranked in the teens as late as 2002. While we believe Louisiana’s culture is its greatest asset, and that our artists can compete with anyone, the lack of even average government support does put our artists at a competitive disadvantage.

We would like to strongly affirm our belief in the value of public art for Louisiana. At its heart, public art engages people, tells the story of our culture, and assures that access to great works of art is not purely the provenance of the more affluent.

We are proud that since its inception in 1999, the state’s Percent For Art Program has created new commissioned works in Hammond, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, Farmerville, and New Orleans. All that said, we are open to a change in the program that caps expenditures on a certain project, and we do hope that Treasurer Kennedy’s new interest in arts funding ultimately results in his supporting raising Louisiana’s culture funding to the Southern average.



Louisiana currently ranks 39th in per capita arts funding, and has fallen 15 spots, and nearly $3,000,000 annually from its position in 2008. With a total of $2,141,028, and at .48 of arts funding, per capita, Louisiana is well behind other Southern states. For comparison:


Florida                                    $1.98 arts funding per capita

Tennessee                              $1.07 arts funding per capita

South Carolina                            .87 arts funding per capita

Alabama                                      .82 arts funding per capita

North Carolina                            .73 arts funding per capita

Arkansas                                     .56 arts funding per capita

Mississippi                                  .53 arts funding per capita

Louisiana                                   .48 arts funding per capita


The per capita average for Arts Funding of the 11 Southern states is .72 per capita. Louisiana is rightly considered the cultural capital of the South, but without below average funding, creatives have economic incentive to seek out more business friendly locations out of state. Louisiana Citizens for the Arts supports raising state arts funding to the Southern average of $3,348,000.

Louisiana’s culture is celebrated across the nation, and our artists often tour nationally to support themselves. Artists, especially musicians, are especially adversely affected by Louisiana’s non-compliance with the Federal REAL ID act of 2005. Requiring our artists to take on the added expense of applying for a passport in order to tour puts an unnecessary financial burden on them, and we urge the next Governor and the Louisiana legislature to put the State in Federal Compliance.

Louisiana’s culture is the state’s most recognizable asset. The office of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism has worked to include cultural creatives in state marketing efforts, and offered business incentives including the Cultural Districts Program, Musical and Theatrical Production Tax Incentive, and Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit. As the State re-examines all tax credit programs, we urge that the Production and Recording credits remain, but with priority given to ways the credits can benefit Louisiana’s homegrown talent and cultural infrastructure.

Louisiana’s colleges and universities have sustained consistent and major funding cuts over the last seven years. In order to play to their strengths and do more with less, Universities such as the University of New Orleans are looking to refocus and rebrand themselves. UNO, which boasts strong though underfunded departments in film, music, theatre, visual arts, and arts administration, has proposed rebranding and centralizing these Departments in a School of the Arts to enhance regional and national student recruitment. We urge proper funding for UNO’s proposed School of the Arts and proper funding for all university art departments across Louisiana.