To help alleviate economic difficulties faced by artists, state Rep. Patricia Dillon EPH ’98 has proposed two bills to be considered this legislative session that will study health care and private funding for artists, particularly those working in New Haven.
One bill, which has just been referred to the Appropriations Committee, calls for $275,000 in state funding to investigate the feasibility of establishing an Artists, Actors and Musicians Fund, while the second bill recommends that the state examine ways to provide affordable health care to artists.
The artists fund, a concept based on similar entities that have existed in New York City for over a century, would be privately funded and help artists according to their needs, which would be determined in the feasibility study. Dillon hopes the affordable health-care bill will encourage the private sector to develop packages that cater to artists’ specific needs, an area in which she says there is a dearth of options.
Both bills serve to address the particular difficulties artists face, said Dillon, a Democrat who represents part of New Haven. Many artists are self-employed and therefore must fund their own health care, and they often face income fluctuations as a result of market trends beyond their control.
“If we’re going to build a community of artists in New Haven particularly, we have to look at ways to support talented people,” Dillon said. “You really shouldn’t have to be wealthy to be an artist. People who are creative are everywhere.”
But the bill may be a tough sell in a state legislature focused on difficult budget decisions in the coming months.
In recent statements, Gov. M. Jodi Rell has encouraged caution about new spending given the state’s projected deficit for the coming fiscal year. Last week, the governor announced a state hiring freeze due to budgetary concerns.
“Governor Rell has not had the chance to analyze the specifics of Rep. Dillon’s proposed bill or review testimony from the public about it,” said Adam Liegeot ’94, a spokesman for the governor. “While Gov. Rell is open to any and all new ideas on how to stimulate the state’s economy and improve the quality of life for Connecticut residents, the state does face a projected $1.3 billion budget gap which will make it difficult to fund any new initiatives.”
If an artists fund were established, it might have considerable implications for New Haven, which is striving to become established as a regional arts center.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in a statement that such efforts to support artists exemplify the city’s commitment to the arts.
“Rep. Dillon has a long history of supporting the arts and helping New Haven become the cultural capital of Connecticut,” DeStefano said in the statement. “Any effort — especially one funded by the private community — which encourages artists to make New Haven their home deserves our attention.”
Elizabeth Monz, the executive director of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, said looking into affordable health care for artists, possibly through group insurance policies, is an important move in the right direction.
“Whether it needs legislation or not, I just don’t know enough about it,” Monz said. “But I think it’s great that [Dillon] has the arts community at heart. I hope that sentiment is shared across the board up in Hartford.”