Arts, Culture and Tourism (ACT) Policy Update Provides View of Current Budget and Goals Moving Forward

Arts, Culture and Tourism (ACT) Policy Update Provides View of Current Budget and Goals Moving Forward

In a year of a flat budget for ACT—the new acronym for a new state-level committee: arts, culture and tourism—DECD Deputy Commissioner David Kooris called the budget a win as compared to the trend of cuts under the previous administration. With a dedicated source supporting the Tourism fund, he noted, “We have a mechanism to protect where we are and it sets a foundation we can build upon.”

At a June 19 legislative update presented by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and the Southeastern CT Cultural Coalition and hosted by the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, Mr. Kooris was joined by State Senator Paul Formica and ACT Committee Co-Chairs Wendy Bury, Exec. Director, SECT Cultural Coalition, and Steve Tagliatela, Chair, CT Tourism Coalition, to discuss the impact of the recent legislative session and budget. Senator Formica commented on the union of arts, culture and tourism. “It seemed to be a natural extension of the collaboration necessary to move our state forward…in any issue collaboration is the way to make it work,” he said highlighting a theme of public-private partnership intrinsic to the plan.

In 2018, tourism secured a dedicated revenue source with 10% of lodging tax, which solidifies the foundation. Funding of $13 million covers Office of Arts, Office of Tourism, CT Humanities and several line items for various cultural institutions, will support a statewide marketing campaign of $4.3 million as well as funding three tourism districts at $400,000 each. 

In a comprehensive marketing strategy, Mr. Kooris described a data-driven, quantitative approach designed to make the most of every dollar by being responsive to digital engagement. Tracking consumers from a click on a webpage to a visit to the venue using Arrivalist, marketing in expensive areas like Boston and New York have measurable impacts through digital campaigns and maximize dollars spent.

The goal is to expand public-private partnerships. Mr. Kooris pointed to the “rolling billboards” created by wrapping DATTCO buses in advertising. The Districts are working with budgets heavily weighted toward marketing with less going to administrative costs. The Eastern Regional Tourism District arranged a partnership with Norwich Community Development Corporation to reduce overhead costs and secure the funding from FY2019. Mr. Kooris noted that he will be bringing forward in special sessions proposals to refine boards and commissions, which can be honed to most meaningfully use volunteer members’ time. 

Rest areas will be reopening with $550,000 in funding provided to the Department of Transportation, although Westbrook will remain closed. Funding to open the rest areas, however, only covers the DOT maintenance staff for the facilities; no funding was given to the Office of Tourism to staff or stock the kiosks at the rest areas. This issue is being explored by the Office of Tourism, which is in a difficult position without allotted funding.

Major bills related to ACT that passed allow establishment of Municipal Cultural Districts and send forward recommendations from the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ Blue Ribbon Commission on Tourism for implementation by the DECD. Municipal Cultural Districts will be in a position to do increased marketing and create distinctive local character. Districts can coordinate with state office marketing and receive services from DECD and Cultural service districts.

Arts and Culture funding constitutes $5.8 million or 45% of the tourism fund. Portions of the funding are distributed through grants by the Office of the Arts, $1.5 million, and CT Humanities $850,000. The Office of the Arts is able to leverage state funding to secure an additional $1 million from the National Endowment for the Arts. The remaining $3.5 million is distributed through specific line items in the state budget.

In a side note, marketing for Connecticut will no longer include the tagline “still revolutionary.” Any logos from this campaign should be replaced on websites and other marketing materials. For more information and to download logos without the tagline, search use the Connecticut Brand at CT.gov. 

Photo: left to right, Sam Quigley, Director, Lyman Allyn Art Museum; David Kooris, Deputy Commissioner, DECD; Wendy Bury, Executive Director, SECT Cultural Coalition; Amanda Ljubicic, Vice President, Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT; Paul Formica, State Senator