Arts Leaders Speak Up.

'Fund the A List' for arts funding in Florida

By Janeen Mason

Artist, Author, Curator, Activist

Special to TC Palm / November 1, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest editorial written by a resident of the Palm Beach North and Jupiter area community 

Florida is now the third largest state in the union. Five years ago, the Florida Legislature funded Arts and Culture at levels that were commensurate with the size of our state.

You may ask what happened in the last five years? While the Florida economy has exploded by 37 percent, funding for the arts was decreased by 93 percent. The leadership in Tallahassee failed us.

Art is “Fluff”?

Is it because our governor, senators, and representatives think Art is “Fluff”? That is a misconception. The facts and data prove otherwise.

The Arts are an economic engine in the Sunshine State. They create cultural corridors, anchor vibrant downtowns and attract business. They rank with real estate and tourism in Florida’s economy.

A while back during a trip to Hollywood, Florida, I found an enormous traffic circle once designed to provide a community park on the green space in the middle with shade trees and water features.

It was a dead zone when I discovered it. Derelicts had claimed squatter’s rights and no self-respecting citizen would run the risk of walking through there. The windows of restaurants and shops around the traffic circle were covered in stained brown paper. No sign of life.

Create a new vision

The local public art advisory board hired an artist to create a new vision for the park. The made plans and drawings that showed banyan trees wrapped in elaborate red tassels, a larger fountain to jet water timed to spray with the heartbeat of the tree, a covered amphitheater and attractive meandering pathways from one side of the park to the other.

When next I saw Hollywood, the park was a jewel in the crown of their downtown. Restaurants, boutiques and all kinds of businesses were thriving around the perimeter. Art brought the neighborhood back to life and property values for the residential neighborhoods surrounding downtown climbed.

The numbers prove that Arts and Culture rank with the real estate and tourism industries. They deliver more than $4.6 billion every year and provide a 9:1 return on investment to our local economy.

Begging for funding no longer working

When I looked at the decrease in funding for the arts during this last legislative session I enlisted the help of two other dynamic arts advocates on Florida’s Treasure Coast, Pat Williams and Nancy Turrell. Seven days after the 2018 session ended in Tallahassee we had a meeting with Senate President Joe Negron, who indicated our old ways of begging for funding were no longer working. He was right.

Together we formed a campaign calling on the legislature to restore full funding for arts and culture through the grants that are reviewed, vetted and approved by The Florida Council on Arts and Culture, the 15-member advisory council appointed to advise the Secretary of State regarding matters pertaining to culture in Florida.

The campaign is called, Fund the A List. The A stands for arts and culture.

More than 40 new legislators will descend on Tallahassee for the 2019 session. We are counting on incoming Senate President Bill Galvano (Bradenton)and incoming Speaker of the House, Jose Oliva of Miami to restore full funding for the arts.

Fund the A List

It is unthinkable that the third largest state in the union is now the 48th in funding for the Arts. Behind Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama.

Just the facts:

Background: The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs is Florida’s state arts agency. The Division promotes Arts and Culture as essential to the quality of life for all Floridians. Arts and Culture contribute to a vibrant and creative Florida. These diverse resources include arts in education, local arts agencies, state service organizations, theaters, dance, folk arts, literature, media arts, museums, multidisciplinary, music, sponsor/presenter, and visual arts programs and projects.

The Division of Cultural Affairs works with the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, a 15-member advisory council appointed to advise the Secretary of Stage regarding cultural grant funding and on matters about Arts and Culture in Florida.

Arts and Culture have a Substantial Return on Investment

  • Every $1 invested in Arts and Culture returns $9 to the local economy.

Creates and Supports JOBS

  • Florida is home to 58,162 arts-related businesses that employ 227,843 people.

Drives Tourism

  • Cultural Interests are the No. 2 driver for out-of-state and in-state tourists.

Engages and Connects Millions of People

  • More than 69.9 million Floridians and tourists participate annually in arts and culture activities.

What can you do?

Visit for more information.

Janeen Mason: Artist, Author, Curator, Activist

(772) 708-3293