COLLECTED WORKS: Sarah Tallarico, executive director of the Wickford Art Association, says the association occasionally has missed out on sales because of the tax on art in Rhode Island that will end on Dec. 1.
After thousands of visitors left the Wickford Art Festival and artists packed up their remaining works and their income from pieces sold, the Wickford Art Association used to have to send someone around collecting the 7 percent tax on sales made during one of the state’s most well-known fine art festivals.
“A lot of times people don’t have their sales added up yet, so they have to send it to you,” said Sarah Tallarico, executive director of the art association, which sponsors the festival.
“Sometimes we have to track people down,” she said. “Some artists are ready to pay at the end of the festival, but collecting that tax just didn’t make us seem friendly to artists.”
There won’t be any making the rounds to collect sales tax from artists at the close of the two-day 52nd Wickford Art Festival in July 2014.
That’s because Rhode Island becomes more artist-friendly on Dec. 1, when the entire state becomes the first in the nation to have a statewide arts district, a status approved by the General Assembly in July that allows an exemption from the 7 percent sales tax on original works of art.
“I know we’re the first state in the country to have a statewide arts district, because I’m on the board of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and I work closely with my colleagues in other states,” R.I. State Council on the Arts Executive Director Randall Rosenbaum said.
“This is going to position Rhode Island as a destination for the arts,” said Rosenbaum. “It’s an incentive for an arts-buying public to come to Rhode Island to buy art and while they’re here, to spend a lot of money to help our economy.”
The arts-buying public is a valuable segment of travelers that the state arts council will target in overall marketing efforts in collaboration with regional marketing organizations, said Rosenbaum.
“Cultural tourists are the most desirable kind of tourists,” Rosenbaum said. “Studies have found that people who travel for cultural reasons tend to spend more, on average, than other kinds of tourists. They tend to stay longer, so they spend more money on hotels, restaurants and things like drinks after performances and other purchases.”
The statewide arts district comes after years of piecemeal approval by the General Assembly that eventually allowed nine cities and towns to have the sales tax-exemption on original art, beginning with downtown Providence in 1997, Pawtucket in 1999 and then Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton, Warren, Warwick, Westerly and Woonsocket.