Candidates weigh in on importance of arts in Carson City

Candidates for mayor and supervisor all said Thursday they believe public funding will be needed to expand and develop arts and culture in Carson City.

But they also made it pretty clear at some point, the private sector must take over the bulk of that responsibility.

The forum at the Brewery Arts Center was sponsored by the Carson City Arts and Culture Coalition and attracted all the candidates for city office except Supervisor Brad Bonkowski, who had a previous commitment, and School Board candidate Steve Reynolds, who was attending the birth of his grandchild. Bonkowski sent his campaign manager Larry Messina with written answers to the questions that were provided to all of them beforehand.

While everyone including two Carson City School Board candidates who did attend said they fully support expanding Carson City’s arts and culture programs, they also agreed as Supervisor Jim Shirk put it, the arts scene in the Capital “cannot thrive and grow without some public funding.”

Mayoral candidate Chris Carver said he sees “a large role in government funding in Carson City.” But he added, “I see major funding for arts coming from the private sector.”

Mayor Bob Crowell too said public funding has a role, especially as a catalyst for developing, “at some point in time, private funding to take over.”

Messina said Bonkowski’s position is arts and culture have depended on the private sector too long and that more public money is needed.

But he too said, “long term, sustainable funding needs to be found.”

Maurice White, who’s running against Bonkowski, said he’s glad the one percent room tax was approved for the arts.

“The arts community now needs to show up their efforts will be sustained,” he said.

White said the Carson Youth Sports Association might be a good model to develop a support system for the arts and culture community.

John Barrette, who’s challenging Shirk’s re-election, said the key is selling the importance and benefits of the arts to the citizens of Carson City so they understand “it’s value to the community.” He said if that’s done, the community will support the funding. He said he too supports public funding to get that process started.

Shirk said it’s vital the public show up when arts and culture issues are before the Supervisors: “Your voice is imperative.” He too said the arts manager will help develop long term funding.

Several of the candidates called for better cooperation between the various arts and culture groups. With better coordination, Barrette said “Cross pollination will occur.”

“I’d like to see more cohesion among the various arts organizations,” said Carver.

White said the hiring of the new arts coordinator will be key to improving that cooperation, “and an arts community working together under his tutelage will take us a long way forward.”

Messina, on behalf of Bonkowski said that coordinator will help eliminate duplicate services and encourage cooperation between the many groups.

Asked about the specter of competition for funding between the arts and public safety, all said public safety issues are paramount but they don’t believe public safety necessarily has to reduce arts and culture support, that there are other areas of discretionary funding that can be looked at.

Crowell pointed out, “a community rich in arts has less need for public safety funding.” Barrette too made that point.

Laurel Crossman, who’s unopposed for re-election to the school board, and Michael Walker, Reynolds’ opponent, also participated in the session, both calling for more emphasis on getting pupils at all levels exposed to the arts.


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