Florida arts groups see biggest budget windfall in a decade
As the theater of politics unfolded in the state capital, players in Tampa Bay's arts community watched for their own happy ending.
They got it when Gov. Rick Scott approved $53.6 million in grants for Florida arts and culture Monday, part of a budget that endured very few vetoes in an election year. It sent the biggest state infusion of cash into the arts in more than a decade, with more than $5 million spread across Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
Last year, the same grants budget from the Florida Department of State's Division of Cultural Affairs totaled $12.7 million. The year before, $9.8 million. The last time it reached anything close to this was in the 2006-07 fiscal year, when the grants budget was $39.5 million.
Florida playhouses, museums and performance groups have spent years grasping for cash, the dry economic climate felt not only at ticket windows but also at the state funding level. Relief came as part of Scott's $77 billion state budget, the largest in Florida history.
"When you're in the arts, you get used to being the stepchild, the also-ran," said Judith Lisi, president of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. "When something like this happens, you go, 'Oh, you do know we exist!' It's just fantastic. We're very happy."