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Bill in Washington State would Compel it to Sell Art Collection

A proposed bill in Washington state calls for it to sell off its sizable art collection to help raise funds to help low-income students attend college. The idea is already generating heat in some corners of the state, with arts supporters criticizing the proposed measure.


The debate around the bill, which was introduced by state Sen. Karen Keiser, a Democrat, touches on a persistent bone of contention between cultural backers and public officials — the notion of selling art to pay the bills.


As reported recently by the Herald of Everett, Wash., the proposal would aim to auction off works from the state’s art collection every two years with the goal of raising $5 million each time.


The bill proposes that 60% of the funds raised go to the State Need Grant program, an education initiative for low-income students, with the rest going back to the state’s arts commission, according to the report.


The arts commission on its official website says that the state’s art collection features 4,600 works acquired over more than 30 years. Much of the art is displayed in public places.


Kris Tucker, the state arts commission’s executive director, said the bill puts forth a “very problematic approach” to generating money.


Keiser told the newspaper that the state’s approximately $1-billion budget shortfall was forcing cuts in higher education financial aid programs.


LA Times

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