Pop-up art installation in Olympia supports tax on capital gains

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Pop-up art installation in Olympia supports tax on capital gains

Work features artists from across Washington

By Dujie Tahat - April 20, 2021

This guest post is a press release from Balance Our Tax Code.

OLYMPIA, WA—With the House scheduled to vote on a capital gains tax (SB 5096) today, the Balance Our Tax Code coalition installed a pop-up art gallery on the capitol campus featuring work from six artists across the state in support of progressive revenue. The installation went up between Tivoli Fountain and Capitol Way where it will remain for the rest of the week, urging legislators to make the tax code more equitable.

Large art pieces line a sidewalk with grass, trees, and capitol building in background. Clicking image opens Google Drive

Invest In Us pop up art installation with work from artists (left to right): Jacob Johns, Mari Shibuya, West McLean, barry johnson, Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) Create, Dujie Tahat, Nick Leppmann.

“As a grassroots organizer, cultural worker, and father, I see first-hand everyday the way the pandemic has exposed the inequities that have systematically harmed my communities for centuries,” said Jacob Johns of Spokane, a member of the Hopi and Akimel O’odham nations. “It doesn’t have to be that way. Taxing the ultra-rich to fund aid to working families would save lives today. We can care for each other. The legislature needs to act immediately.”

Contributing artists include barry johnson from Federal Way, Mari Shibuya, Nick Leppman, and Dujie Tahat from Seattle, Johns from Spokane, and West McLean from Vashon Island (all work can be viewed here). McLean’s mural is interactive—viewers are invited to scan a QR code on their phone to reveal the artist’s message. One mural arrived by way of Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) Create, a five-day summer camp for high school youth in Seattle, and is making a stop at the Capitol on the way to a community farm in Southpark.

“Bringing the Y-WE mural here today is a reminder that the youth are shaping our future. And the more we invest in their creativity and confidence to shape it with intention and compassion, that’s our collective security,” said Shibuya, who created her mural during the installation at nearby Heritage Park. “We have to care for our young people. This continued question of what does it take to reimagine our future means working at the policy level and bringing the community to that. The relationship between art and policy-making is vital. And that’s why we’re here today: making art to get a capital gains tax passed.”

Washington state has the most upside down tax code in the country, with low-income and working people paying six times more of their share in taxes than their wealthy counterparts. The combination of the capital gains tax and working families tax credit (HB 1297) represents the biggest step towards balancing Washington’s tax code in decades.

“With enough revenue from an equitable tax structure, my community could overhaul our aging telecommunications infrastructure. Ensuring everyone, especially those in low-income areas, has equal access to the internet helps to level the playing field in education, information access, and digital literacy,” said McLean. ”The web is a utility, just like water and power, and with tax revenue it could finally be treated as such.”

SB 5096 to establish a tax on extraordinary profits made from the sale of capital gains appears in both Senate and House budgets this session. Last week, the House Finance Committee voted the bill out of committee, which is expected to see a floor vote today or tomorrow. The Working Families Tax Credit also passed the Senate last week with bi-partisan support and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Close up of three pieces of art next to sidewalk with grass, trees, and capitol building in background.

McLean’s contribution (right) is interactive—viewers are invited to scan a QR code on their phone to reveal the artist’s message—pictured here with work from Mari Shibuya and Jacob Johns.

Balance Our Tax Code (BOTC) is a coalition of over fifty organizations, including the Budget & Policy Center, working to make Washington’s tax system equitable and one that works for everyone. Comprised of physicians, teachers, advocates for reproductive justice, workers rights, and more, BOTC represents the breadth and depth of people and issues impacted.