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A six-month-long series of conversations between Salt Lake City's art and entertainment leaders has ended with a tentative blueprint to guide the spending of $500,000 annually to market the downtown "cultural core."

City and county leaders agreed in 2010 to earmark a sales-tax fund after the opening of City Creek Development to revitalize downtown's arts district. About 100 representatives from Salt Lake City's various arts organizations, restaurants and clubs began meeting last April in consultant-guided "cultural core conversations."

Salt Lake Art Center Director Adam Price said the group was impressed that the arts and entertainment community was brought intimately into the planning. "It's exciting that the city and the county are thinking about the life of the downtown core," Price said.

A byproduct of the meetings is that art leaders scattered throughout Salt Lake City were brought together. "We got a lot of dialogue started," he said.

The fund is to be directed for 20 years to promote the cultural core as a whole, not used to benefit any one arts organization.

"We're looking at more collaborative ways to spend the money," said Salt Lake City economic development director Bob Farrington. "[We were asking] what would happen if we put our heads together?"

In the next phase of the project, the city and county will create an advisory board to shape and direct how the money will be spent in a more detailed way, Farrington said.

After that, an existing entity will be selected to implement those ideas. The contracting group could be an organization such as the Salt Lake Arts Council or the Downtown Alliance or some hybrid of groups, Farrington said.

The cultural core fund is expected to be used as seed money to move projects forward, while attracting more significant funding from other entertainment groups. Recommended strategies include creating small art spaces within downtown, improving transportation in and out of the district, and targeting arts marketing to locals and visitors.

It's only $500,000 a year for two decades, Farrington said, but "in the context of how much arts money is out there, this is a lot of money."

Price said the cooperative funds could make a big difference, "but that will require thinking carefully about how the money is spent." —

Branding Salt Lake City's "cultural core"

O Read the report about branding and marking the city's downtown arts district.


O See a video about the effort.