Beth Kiepert appreciates that her jewelry and gift shop is located at 420 Main St. in Warren, within the boundary of the Warren Arts District.
“It labels Warren as a destination for the arts,” said Kiepert, owner of Muse. “It gives people who don’t know the area something to hold onto, to help them find what they might be interested in. It’s very good for tourism; people like artistic things.”
Being in an arts district also brings a tax break, one Kiepert is happy to take advantage of.
“I would definitely say it’s a benefit. … When you don’t add another 7 percent on top of that, it’s appealing,” she said.
Now, Wickford is trying to gain an arts district of its own. The North Kingstown village is home to the Wickford Arts Festival, one of the nation’s most renowned, hosted by the Wickford Art Association, as it has been since 1962.
But the bay-side village does not have one of the state’s 10 arts districts, which came into being after a 1998 law that provides tax incentives for artists to live and work in specific areas. Currently nine communities host districts – Little Compton, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence (with two), Tiverton, Warren, Warwick, Westerly and Woonsocket – and the benefits are real.
A state-designated arts district can help artists and gallery owners save money in three separate ways. For artists living and working in the district, any sale of work created within the district is exempt from sales tax, while any income they receive from the sale of said work is exempt from personal income tax. For gallery spaces, the sales of original works of art are exempt from sales tax whether or not they were created within the district.
There was hope that Wickford would gain an arts district when the state Senate passed legislation on May 30 establishing one. But the House Finance Committee held a companion bill over for study until the end of the session, killing the concept until after the next election.