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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Walsh introduces legislation to boost jobs in Rhode Island arts industry

Legislation would also benefit the state’s tourism industry
Rep. Donna Walsh news release

A columnist recently wrote that Rhode Island could become a contender for the title “State of the Arts.” According to a conservative estimate by Americans for the Arts, there are 3,248 arts-related businesses in Rhode Island registered with Dun & Bradstreet. 

These businesses employ 13,445 workers. This total does not include non-profit arts groups not registered with D&B or their employees, or individual artists.

I want to boost Rhode Island’s growing arts community AND boost Rhode Island’s economy, in particular tourism, by extending Rhode Island’s existing tax-free art zones to include the entire state. For one of a kind, original works of art, my proposed legislation, H-5844, would eliminate the 7% sales tax.

Foregoing this revenue is an investment in creating more jobs in galleries and non-profits, more opportunities for artists to devote more time to their work, and increased opportunities to expand our vitally important tourism industry.

Rhode Island also plays host to one of America’s finest arts schools, the RI School of Design, and we should encourage all those RISD graduates to stay, work and create in Rhode Island.

I was inspired to introduce this legislation after several discussions with one of my constituents, David “Gilley” Gilstein, who runs the Charlestown Art Gallery near the junction of Routes One and Two. Gilley told me that he hears frequent comments from buyers that the 7% sales tax is a disincentive to buying more works of art – both original as well as commercially made. He noted that Rhode Island allows some small and sharply defined areas to benefit from the tax break, but that the arts are becoming far more widespread throughout the state.

Encouraging more and more artists and galleries has become part of the come-back strategy for communities such as Pawtucket and Central Falls. Artists and arts-related businesses are expanding throughout southern Rhode Island.

We need a tax change that will encourage this trend to bring more tourists and art buyers to Rhode Island. My legislation builds on the experimental arts districts already in existence to provide the same benefit to artists and those who display and sell their work statewide.

Representative Walsh represents House District 36 which covers all of Charlestown and Block Island as well as parts of Westerly and South Kingstown. For more information, please contact Rep. Walsh at 523-2199 or visit her website at to