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SPOTLIGHT ON FLORIDA WRITERS

COLETTE BANCROFT

TIMES BOOK EDITOR

If you're interested in Florida writers, add the latest edition of the Florida Humanities Council's magazine, Forum, to your summer reading list.

Forum's summer edition is devoted to the 2009 winners of the Florida Book Awards. It's the fourth year the awards have been given. You'll find excerpts from terrific books by such authors as N.M. Kelby, Tim Dorsey and Carlton Ward, interviews with historians Jack Davis and Michael Gannon, and much more.

To order a copy of the magazine, go to www.flahum.org. On the website, you'll also find extras, including winning authors on their favorite Florida places, audio of some of them reading their work, and a wonderful house-shaped poem about his house by St. Petersburg poet laureate Peter Meinke, with a sweet drawing by his wife, Jeanne Meinke.

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JOHN FLEMING

TIMES PERFORMING ARTS CRITIC

Funding: the state of the art

Raising money for the arts has probably never been harder. "In a world mired in economic uncertainty, and with cash for the arts disappearing, how do we argue for culture,'' asks an influential article by Andras Szanto, "Funding: the state of the art,'' recently published at www.theartnewspaper.com.

The main problem, Szanto writes, is that arguments that used to work on behalf of supporting the arts no longer always do, especially for "the traditional high arts institutions that commanded the lion's share of the support in the past,'' such as museums and symphony orchestras. He says that long-term shifts in philanthropic thinking will make it difficult for the arts to compete with other societal needs for support from public and private sources.

"Foundation boards (like government agencies) are demanding more accountability in the form of quantifiable 'metrics of success.' They have valid reasons. But the arts, as a rule, do not lend themselves to the sort of clear-cut measurements that validate funding of, say, vaccines or mosquito nets.''

Szanto argues that arts organizations need to figure out how to make a compelling case for the intrinsic importance of culture itself, not for somewhat peripheral reasons like how it might contribute to higher test scores or increased real estate values. "Arts advocates should . . . consider what students of political rhetoric have long accepted: that people aren't always won over by cerebral arguments. They are moved to act by big ideas and deep emotions.''

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LENNIE BENNETT

TIMES VISUAL ARTS CRITIC

Call for nominations for TBBCA's Impact Awards

In a recent Critics Circle blog post, I commented on the need to think of the arts in regional terms. It's a way of making the whole bigger than the sum of its parts.

One organization that has an admirable history of such bigger-picture thinking is Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts, whose mission is "to help build a stronger arts and cultural community with support of area businesses."

It was established in 1989 and, frankly, was mostly Tampa-centric for many years. One of the people responsible for taking TBBCA regional was its longtime executive director, Melinda Chavez. She left the organization this year to become director of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts but now sits on the group's board of directors.

Among its programs, TBBCA links businesses with arts organizations and helps each side develop collaborations that play to everyone's strengths and resources. It isn't always about writing a big check.

For 15 years, its annual bash has recognized individuals and businesses who have been leaders in supporting the arts. Last year's honorees were Marjorie Golub, Carl Kuttler, William Zewadski, Scott Wagman and Beth Houghton, J. Kokolakis Contracting and Tampa International Airport. They represent the organization's regional approach with their contributions spreading across Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.

This year's gala is in October, but nominations are being accepted now through Aug. 5. In these tough times, I think it's especially important and meaningful to show some public love for those who continue to increase our cultural assets.

For information, go to www.tbbca.org.

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