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Fine Arts Council integrates business talents

In an effort to strengthen its pool of talent, the Hernando County Fine Arts Council has added two new members from the area's business community.

At a general meeting Wednesday evening, Dudley Hampton, president of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, and Silverthorne Country Club owner Michael Heard were appointed to four-year terms on the board.

"The council cannot exist only with artists," said council chairman David Weinman. "We're a community-based organization and we have to represent the community."

Heard, along with her husband and business partner, Jerry, created and organized the council's Christmas Tree Follies fundraiser in past years.

Weinman said he would like to see at least one of the two remaining vacancies on the board filled by someone with a strong financial and investment background. Once the council reaches its full capacity of 15 members, Weinman said he hopes such divergent backgrounds will lend the group greater credibility.

"People from all aspects of the art and business communities are important," he said. "It's got to be a marriage."

The move to bolster the council's credibility comes in the wake of its failed effort to build the Nimmagadda Cultural Center in Spring Hill last fall. The council then considered, and eventually scrapped, an idea for an artist enclave in downtown Brooksville.

As part of the organization's attempts to refocus on its core mission, Weinman presented his ideas for refining the arts council's grant program. In recent meetings, the group decided applicants will be required to be based in Hernando County and have a nonprofit status.

Each year, the council gets about $4,800 collected from an optional Florida State of the Arts license plate, Weinman said. After expenses, such as the council's quarterly newsletter, are paid, the remainder can be awarded to qualified art organizations.

If approved next month, the requirements would effectively limit the number of qualified organizations to about three dozen, Weinman said.

Should the council vote to approve Weinman's plan next month, individual grants will be capped at $1,000, with lesser amounts given at the board's discretion.

Along with two new board members, Weinman said the group has been approached by volunteers willing to take on tasks like putting together a monthly newsletter and writing grant applications.

The council still needs volunteers to organize updates for the council's county-hosted Web site and research corporate sponsorship opportunities for council fundraisers.

"I really feel like we're getting somewhere," Weinman said. "We're making lots of progress."

The next general meeting of the fine arts council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 26 in the County Commission chambers in Brooksville.

_ Joy Davis-Platt can be reached at (352) 848-1435. Send e-mail to joysptimes.com.

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