RI voters approve $35 million in matching arts bond

    Trinity Repertory Co.

    Rhode Island voters on Tuesday approved $35 million in bonds for arts and culture in the state.

    This is the first time a referendum like this has passed in Rhode Island, and perhaps the country. For every $1 raised by nonprofits, the state will borrow and match every dollar with one approved by taxpayers.

    AS220 charges a fee for artists to take classes and then rents its printing presses and fabrication machines to them so they can create their art, which is then sold, fueling the economy.

    "We hope to leverage this investment to make the arts and culture scene even bigger, better, and more available to more people throughout the state," said AS220's development director, Cynthia Langlykke.

    With its $2.1 million matching grant money, AS220 hopes to rehab a South Providence building to expand there at a cost of $1.6 million.

    "The people that live here really care about the vibrancy of their community, and they know that arts and culture play a huge role with their young people's lives, and also improving the quality of life in the city," said AS220 program director Shey Rivera.

    "All these arts organizations are putting so much of their money into keeping these buildings together and operating. This is money that they have to take away from their direct programming," said Randall Rosenbaum, of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.

    When places like Trinity Repertory Co. is humming and AS220 is humming, so are nearby businesses.

    The Stadium Theater will benefit, as well as the Rhode Island Philharmonic and WaterFire, too. The State Council on the Arts said it gets a $21-to-$1 return on its grants.

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