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Salt Lake County’s funding for the arts rising with the economy

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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Visitors look at the Past Worlds and Great Salt Lake exhibits at the Natural History Museum of Utah Tuesday, December 4, 2012. The museum is projected to receive close to $593,000 in 2013 ZAP tax funding.

By Mike Gorrell

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Dec 05 2012 01:01AM
Updated Apr 8, 2013 11:32PM

The Salt Lake Film Society moved into the big leagues of local arts organizations Tuesday, becoming one of 23 groups to receive top-tier funding through Salt Lake County’s ZAP (Zoo, Arts and Parks) tax program.

For the past decade, the society has striven to increase public education about the world of cinema by showing historic or avant-garde films at the Broadway and Tower theaters, holding workshops for screenwriters and digital directors, and taking programs to schoolchildren.

Its budget is now large enough, with $1.4 million in expenditures, to qualify for the larger pots of ZAP-tax money that "Tier 1" institutions, such as Ballet West and the Utah Symphony & Opera, split based on a formula in the law. For the Salt Lake Film Society, that share is projected to be about $254,000 next year.

"It’s a huge change for our organization," said Film Society Executive Director Tori Baker, noting the ZAP funding will go to digital innovation programs, addressing physical issues in their buildings and trying to "maintain sustainability in a technologically driven world."

The Film Society picked a decent year to join the ranks.

For a second consecutive year, an improving economy has boosted the amount of the ZAP money available to Tier 1 institutions. They will divvy up a projected $9.6 million next year, 14 percent more than the $8.4 million available in 2012. The 2013 revenue estimate is based on projections for the economic recovery.

Next year’s forecast is still not as good as in 2007, just before the Great Recession hit, when ZAP revenues for Tier 1 institutions reached $10.4 million. But it’s far better than 2009 and ‘10, when the sales tax-based pot fell to $7.9 million.

"These Tier 1 facilities touch the lives of millions of people," said Victoria Bourns, who manages the program for Salt Lake County, adding that 4 million people attended programs put on by the big ZAP recipients. "All are professionally managed organizations serving the entire county."

County ZAP taxes also flow to much smaller, community-based arts, culture and parks groups. This year, nearly 150 of these Tier 2 groups are splitting about $1.6 million.

Among Tier 1 organizations, the Utah Symphony & Opera is the largest arts recipient at $2.2 million, while the Grand Theater Foundation is the smallest, receiving $65,000 to help run the Salt Lake Community College theater.

Increasing tax revenues also benefit the Utah Zoological Society, whose annual take rose from just under $2 million in 2012 to a projected $2.25 million next year.

Of the recipients, six did not pass a "financial health test" that all applications go through. Bourns said those institutions must submit a financial plan to the county and provide regular updates.

Those organizations include the three largest recipients — Utah Symphony & Opera, Ballet West and Hale Center Theatre — along with Kingsbury Hall Presents, Repertory Dance Theatre and the Salt Lake City Arts Council.

David Gee, ZAP Advisory Board chairman, said fewer arts groups have financial issues now as the economy rebounds. None has ever failed.

Like the Salt Lake Film Society, other recipients were excited to see bigger grants.

Maria Farrington, CEO of Discovery Gateway, said much of her ZAP funding will go to programs geared toward autistic children, a sizable segment of the population often ignored in the past. "We couldn’t do it without ZAP funding," she said.

The $92,310 received by the Utah Film Center will help pay 10 staff members so they can deliver its programs, 90 percent of which are free to the public, said development manager Nancy Eaves.

Those programs include the "Through the Lens" discussions with filmmakers, science movie nights at the Natural History Museum of Utah, a children’s film festival and weekly film programs for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

For a complete list of ZAP Tier 1 funding recipients and their 2013 projected totals, go online to http://bit.ly/Xo6SaUclass="BOLD_Text">http://bit.ly/Xo6SaU.

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg

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