Governor veto of $500,000 strikes a sour note for Florida Orchestra
The Florida Orchestra got an unwelcome surprise late Friday when Gov. Rick Scott ruled out $500,000 in funds to help pay for a new outreach program. Beyond the Bay launched in January with a vision of taking the orchestra to schools and community orchestras across Florida. The veto was part of $34 million the governor nixed from the state's budget, leaving that money available for other priorities.
"Clearly we're disappointed," said orchestra president and chief executive officer Michael Pastreich. "This program is like no other. For some young people, these will be the only symphony concerts they hear in their lives."
The future for Beyond the Bay, a program enthusiastically embraced by music director Michael Francis, looked much brighter with its first tour five months ago. The orchestra used $700,000 from the state's Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture to perform in Volusia, Highlands and Alachua counties. The appearances included "side-by-side" concerts, invaluable teaching opportunities that will be hard to replicate without state help, Pastreich said.
The orchestra applied for $1.5 million for Beyond the Bay's second year, with planned visits to Bay, St. Lucie and Citrus counties. State-appointed grant reviewers reduced the ceiling to $500,000, which was approved by the legislature in May before Scott's veto.
"We're going to be building a stronger effort, we have a support network within the community," Pastreich said. "It's just going to be a lot less than last time."
Other denied arts projects included $400,000 for the St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District, which would have funded artist studios; and $1 million for an expansion of Ruth Eckerd Hall.