Survey results may not have indicated much interest in creating an arts district in Bowie, but that hasn’t stopped the city’s Economic Development Committee from trying.
The all-volunteer group is drafting a proposal aimed at urging the City Council to hold a public forum on creating the district, which officials envisioned would provide tax incentives for artists that live in the area while encouraging arts-related business in the city.
Committee members met June 6 to discuss the results of an online survey that sought to determine the number of area artists and the amount of interest in an arts district. Despite having been open since June 2012, the ongoing survey has only collected 93 responses.
One of the initial steps to get the state designation is to demonstrate a vibrant local art community, and with Bowie having a population around 55,000, having less than 100 artists didn’t seem to meet that requirement, said John Henry King, the city’s economic development director.
Holding a community meeting could be a way to get public input from people the survey missed, said committee member Asuntha Chiang-Smith.
“It will be very transparent, and then we can see, once and for all, where we stand on this,” she said.
City Councilman Todd Turner (At Large), who attended the committee meeting, said he wasn’t sure a public forum would make a difference.
“In Hyattsville, a few people made that a self-appointed art district and then the government came in with the designation,” he said of the Gateway Arts and Entertainment District located in the northwestern portion of the county. “I’m not sure you’re going to get that with Bowie.”
The proposal will include background on the city’s efforts to create an arts district, which Turner said would be helpful for the council to consider whether to continue the effort. The committee has been working on creating an arts district in the city since 2007, said Ed Leyden, a committee member and former chairman of the committee.
An arts district had been attractive to the city as a potential way to provide a new economic boost and perhaps revitalize Old Town Bowie, Turner said. As part of an art district, the state requires Prince George’s County and Bowie to sign off on an arts district and to forego property taxes they would ordinarily gain. Bowie would probably have to dedicate staff and resources to support and promote it, among other requirements, according to the application packet.
The state’s art and entertainment designation can help attract artists to an area as well as bring a variety of tax benefits for the artists, said Pamela Dunne, program director of the Maryland State Arts Council.
Program incentives include property tax credits for work on buildings that create living and working spaces for artists or businesses geared toward the arts as well as provide an income-tax modification for people who make their living working in the arts, she said.
A draft of the committee’s proposal is scheduled to be reviewed by the committee during its public meeting at 7:30 a.m. July 10 at Bowie City Hall. Should the committee support it, the proposal could be presented to the council after the meeting, committee members said.