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Eye On Olympia

Buy local produce, not art…

The next time you’re buying apples, potatoes or cherries, the state wants you to buy locally.

“Next time you shop, look for Washington products, or ask your grocer for them,” Gov. Chris Gregoire says in a commercial on the state-backed Heart of Washington website. “It’s a delicious way to help support our local farmers.”

What’s good for the farmer is also good for the artist, argues Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.

So he tacked an amendment onto the state’s $3.3 billion construction budget. Any public art purchased as part of those projects, it said, must be made by Washington artists.

Some lawmakers wanted to temporarily do away the requirement that half of 1 percent of the cost of public buildings go to art. The state has paid for more than 4,600 works of art, worth more than $17 million, at schools, colleges, prisons and office buildings across the state.

Hobbs argued that the money should at least stay in Washington, helping local artists. In addition to 73 people in Seattle and 7 in Spokane, the state’s list of 235 artists eligible for public projects includes people in Canada, California, New York City and Chicago. (Interestingly, the list includes 5 artists from Montana and none from Idaho.)

“This amendment would have shown a skeptical public that we do manage their tax dollars wisely,” Hobbs said.

The reason he says “would” is because Gov. Gregoire vetoed that section of the budget. She said she didn’t want to start a protectionist fight in the art world, particularly if it meant that Washington artists would be discriminated against by other states.

Hobbs argues that it was the wrong decision.

“This veto establishes the public arts program as a sacred cow at a time when vital state services are being slashed and people are losing their jobs,” he said.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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