Town Hall Exposes How The Arts In Florida Are Threatened By State Funding Cuts – How You Can Help?

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith preliminated the panel discussion of Tuesday’s town hall meeting with a look at some facts on how arts & culture has positively impacted the economy of the entire state of Florida and Central Florida. He shared that $4.7 billion is generated annually across 57,000 arts & culture related businesses and 213,000 people across the State of Florida are employed due to this tremendous economic impact. In Central Florida alone, nonprofit arts & culture organizations generate $400 million in economic activity, employing close to 41,000 people. So, why have state legislators approved of a 94% funding cut of the Department of Cultural Affairs grants program, if the arts & culture scene in Florida produced such great numbers?

Representative Geraldine Thompson answered this question by stating, “…for the past eight years…we have had a legislative branch and an executive branch that has focused on jobs. However, it has been a very narrow understanding of how you can create jobs and so funding has gone into expanding tourism, agriculture, the environment, beach restoration. All of those things are important but we never quantified jobs in terms of arts & culture and that is what I think we have to do…we have to show (Florida legislators) how arts & culture increases visitors to Florida.”

Joann Newman, the President & CEO of the Orlando Science Center touched on another point during the panel discussion, where she addressed that the arts organizations are “not looking for a hand out”. Rather, she wanted to let lawmakers know that arts organizations,are dependent on a very diverse set of funding that comes from ticket sales, memberships, donors, but…we do need that government support...that contributing side that comes from all the places, individuals, and corporations.” When one source of funding is severely decreased, then the organization tends to suffer somewhere in its operation.

During, the town hall meeting, local Orlando art organizations shared their stories of how the arts & culture state funding cut effected their organization’s operation. Pam Kancher, Director of the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center stated her organization had to cut out an entire exhibit and three months of supplemental programming for the exhibit because they only received $5,961 from DCA (Department of Cultural Affairs), when they qualified for $90,000 in funding. Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Director of the Wells Built Museum (located in Parramore) stated the museum could only run three programs for 2019, they had to undergo a cut in staffing, and their 90 year old building upkeep will suffer due to a decrease of funding from the state’s DCA grants program. Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith stated,”we know that this is unacceptable and the Florida Legislature needs to do better.

Representative Anna V. Eskamani shared a touching story of how after her mother passed away in 2004, she embraced her high school theater program, which gave her a safe place to learn and grow into the amazing leader that she is today. Organizations like Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Orlando Repertory Theater, and Orlando Ballet are partnered with OCPS (Orange County Public Schools) to help thousands of students in Orange County engage in their performing arts series through United Arts of Central Florida. If these organization’s budgets are exceptionally cut, then the livelihood of the students suffer.

It’s time to take a stand as citizens and let your voice be heard on this matter of how the arts funding cut is affecting your way of life and the economy around you. State legislators need to increase funding to the Department of Cultural Affairs grants program. Take action by showing up in Tallahassee on March 13, 2019 for Arts & Culture Day 2019 from 10:15 AM to 12:30 PM at the informational rally on the 22nd floor of Capital in Art Gallery. Register to attend by visiting www.flca.net. Alternatively, you can contact your State Legislators and ask them to fully fund Florida’s DCA Grant Program.

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Editor of ArtGuideOrlando.com. Community Arts & Culture Advocate. Creative Digital Adver-Marketeer. My Email: internetindy@gmail.com

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