It’s a tough time for arts funding around the nation. Kansas, as an example, just cut all its state support. It’s a different story in the Cleveland area, though. That region has found a unique way to fund the arts, and it’s paying off big.
It’s made residents like Samantha Kane arts patrons of sorts. She says she smokes about two or three packs of cigarettes a week. We find her waiting at a bus stop with a stroller in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Since 2006, each cigarette she smokes contributes a penny and a half to Cuyahoga County’s arts organizations.
“I love that it goes to something instead of road work, or you know, padding congressmen’s pockets,” Kane says.
This county cigarette tax really adds up. The group that administers the money is doling out $15 million this year alone. That’s enough to catapult the Cleveland area to among the top public funders for the arts in the nation—many times more than what most states contribute.
“I tell people: you don’t have to smoke ‘em, just buy them,” says Cindy Einhouse, CEO of the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood.
It puts on shows, teaches dance and music, and provides summer camps for kids.
Einhouse says the recession hit her organization hard. The Beck Center almost closed its doors in 2009. A wave of private donations helped, but she’s grateful for this county tax.