skip navigation
Share this:

Arts and Cultural Programs

This page provides information on options for local governments in Washington State to promote arts and cultural programs, including arts commissions, public art policies and documents, 1% for the arts programs, creative districts, and cultural access programs.


Arts and culture contribute to a community’s vitality and economic development. Many Washington communities have developed local arts commissions and cultural programs. These programs include a variety of art commissions, cultural districts, and other public art programs. Sometimes these programs are found within the parks and recreation department, and in other cases they may be independent offices.

Arts Commissions and Programs

This section includes examples of public art programs, planning for the arts, funding, and management of art works.



  • King County 4Culture – Public development authority providing cultural services for King County, including the arts, heritage, preservation, and public art

1% For the Arts Programs

Some jurisdictions voluntarily require that public works projects meeting certain criteria set aside a percentage of the construction cost – typically 0.5% to 1% – for public art. However, this is not required by state law and there are no statutory provisions for such a program. (Some state agencies do have statutory requirements for arts funding.)

However, if a local government has received federal, state, or grant funding that requires a percentage for the arts, the jurisdiction must comply with those requirements.

Mandatory art requirements probably cannot be applied to private developments, as that would likely violate RCW 82.02.020 which prohibits local governments from imposing fees on development that are not otherwise authorized by state law.


Public Art Policies, Procedures, and Contracts

Below are selected examples of policies and procedures regarding the acquisition and management of public artwork.

  • Burien Public Art Plan – As of 2021, city is developing long-range public art plan; includes links to related ordinances and documents
  • Kirkland:
    • Public Art Policy Guidelines (2021) – Includes equity statements, public art evaluation criteria, artwork donations and loans, approval process for artwork acquisition and commission, preferred locations for artwork installations, exhibit duration, and deaccession or relocation of artwork
    • Public Art Maintenance Policy (2014) – Addresses maintenance of public artwork and when it is permissible for members of the public to decorate public art, such as sculptures and statues, to commemorate special events and community celebrations
    • Rotating Outdoor Sculpture Gallery Exhibitor Application (2015) – Application to display art intended for sale in outdoor, public space gallery. Art is to be displayed for 12 months. 100% of sale goes to artist or gallery.
  • Olympia Temporary Loan of Sculpture Contract (2014) – Sample agreement for city to borrow artwork from an artist for up to one year to display at a particular location
  • Port of Bellingham Bellingham International Airport Art Policy (2015) – Policy to create art program for airport. Includes guidelines, acquisition criteria and sample loan and display contract.
  • Shoreline:
  • Vancouver Public Right-of-Way Art Display Policy (2015) – Allows individuals or organizations to paint or decorate city-owned property in the public right-of-way, provided they obtain a right-of-way use permit and comply with policy guidelines. Also requires a separate right of way art display agreement, included in this document.

Arts and Cultural Districts

In addition to the example below, several other cities including Bellevue, Burien, Mukilteo, and Seattle have been considering the establishment of arts or cultural districts.

Creative Districts

Any county, city, or town (or multiple entities) may apply to have a geographic area designated as a "creative district" under RCW 43.46.100 - .115. The local government must apply to the Washington State Arts Commission for approval. If approved, designation as a creative district can help the jurisdiction access state resources and assistance to encourage business development, enhance the area's visibility, and foster a supportive climate for arts and culture.

For more information, including planning and application materials and a list of existing creative districts, see ArtsWA: Creative Districts.


  • Coupeville Resolution No. 23-02 (2023) – Designates area as creative district; will petition the Washington State Arts Commission for certification
  • Issaquah Resolution No. 2020-03 (2020) – Designates area as creative district, subject to certification by the Washington State Arts Commission, and directs administration to petition for certification and execute any necessary documents

Cultural Access Programs

Any county, city, or town (or multiple entities via interlocal agreement) may establish a cultural access program under chapter 36.160 RCW to benefit or expand access to nonprofit cultural organizations. However, if a county has established a cultural access program, no city within the county may do so.

(While most of the provisions in the statutes refer specifically to counties, RCW 36.160.030 states that if a city has created a cultural access program, all references to county must also include the city unless the context clearly requires otherwise.)

A "cultural organization" is defined in RCW 36.160.020 to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose primary purpose is the advancement and preservation of science or technology, the visual or performing arts, zoology (national accreditation required), botany, anthropology, heritage, or natural history. State-related cultural organizations are also eligible, subject to certain restrictions.

A cultural access program may generally be funded by either:

  • A sales tax up to 7 years and 0.1% (RCW 82.15.525), or
  • A property tax up to 7 years (RCW 84.52.821). The total levy dollar amount for the first year may not exceed an amount equal to 0.1% of the total taxable retail sales and uses within the jurisdiction for the most recent calendar year for which data is available.

The revenues must be used in accordance with RCW 36.160.110, which is very detailed and requires careful review. The revenues may not be used to replace or supplant existing funding (RCW 36.160.050), and a jurisdiction may not impose both the property tax and sales tax at the same time.

For more details on cultural access program levies and sales taxes, refer to MRSC's City Revenue Guide and County Revenue Guide.


  • Olympia Cultural Access – Website for voter-approved cultural access program
    • Resolution No. M-2280 (2021) – Submitting cultural access program sales tax to voters and establishing advisory board
  • Tacoma Creates – Website for voter-approved cultural access program, including funding opportunities and annual reports
    • Resolution No. 40046 (2018) – Submitting cultural access program sales tax to voters and establishing advisory board

Recommended Resources

The following are key organizations supporting the arts.

Last Modified: February 09, 2023