Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday May 17, 2015 Pinellas County Arts Funding May Increase

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

This past week it looked like a window for more Pinellas County funding for the Arts may be opening.

 Creative Pinellas, the county-funded arts agency, is seeking $300,000 a year to promote the arts and to fund local artists and programs for the next three years.

You can read more in Steven Girardi article in the St. Pete Tribune Pinellas leaders see value of arts, seek more information.

County funding for the arts dried up when the County Office of Cultural Affairs was shuttered five years ago in the midst of the financial downturn.

This is the moment when the arts community should be fully prepared with a program and details. County Commissioners want to know where and how any funding increase will be spent.

Publically funded arts programs have a tendency to become cliquish. A broadly based program and accountability for how public art funds are actually spent is a necessity.

The $300,000 is a reasonable sum if Creative Pinellas can produce a plan with sufficient detail to make Commissioners feel comfortable. Beginning with a modest working budget line item in the new budget, the arts community should be encouraged to return in the next budget cycle to report on their success and the County Commission should be open to additional funding.

The County Commission should avoid throwing a ton of money at the Arts only to be disappointed when the outcomes don't meet expectations or controversy arises over the program.

In St.Pete they have begun to realize throwing money at arts programs and using public funds to support individual artist or groups of artists does not produce a sustainable arts community.

The St. Petersburg approach to the arts community is one the County should consider. St. Petersburg is moving toward a sustainability model which brings customers to buy local art to support its growing arts community.

You can read about the Saint Petersburg approach in my six Post series A Casual Conversation with Wayne Atherholt St. Petersburg's Director of Cultural Affairs .

For now it looks like the County Commission is poised to renew its commitment to the arts and they should.

 The Arts community should also realize that what comes from the public trough can just as easily disappear as it did 5 years ago. Moving from subsidy to sustainability is a model the arts community should embrace.

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