Close the gap: Local donors rally to replace state funds for the arts

What to do when the state of Florida drastically cuts funding for the arts? Rally locals to fill the gap while providing an easy online tool to enable donations of any amount to eligible arts organizations.

That’s the solution being proposed by the Tampa-based Gobioff Foundation and its founders Gianna and Neil Gobioff, who give generously to local placemaking efforts through their private foundation.

Donations to the newly created Tampa Bay Arts Bridge Fund can be made through the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay by following this link.

The Gobioffs see the Bridge Fund as a short-term fix for an immediate problem that is causing some arts organizations to reduce productions, exhibits, and performances while others are struggling to continue to provide basic arts services to people of all ages in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

What prompted the creation of the fund? General Program Support Grants funding from the state Division of Cultural Affairs for Florida arts organizations dropped from $24 million in 2014-15 to $2.6 million in 2018-19.

Compare that to requests for grants from arts organizations, which went from $24 million in 2014-15 to almost $42 million in 2018-19. The difference? Funding went in 4 years from 100 percent of the total requested to just 6 percent of that requested.

The gap in Support Grants funding for nonprofit organizations in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties alone is $3.8 million for 2018-19. The Bridge Fund, based on its own eligibility criteria, seeks to raise about $2.5 million to be distributed in equal proportions to 33 eligible arts organizations -- 18 in Hillsborough and 16 in Pinellas -- based on their funding requests.

The goal is to raise the money by September when state grants traditionally would be distributed.

The Gobioff Foundation has already kicked in $100,000. The Vinik Family Foundation agreed to match the same amount. Now it's up to other foundations and individuals to donate to close the gap.

At the same time, community conversations are beginning around getting out the vote to support candidates who support the arts. And lobbying efforts are underway to influence local, state and federal lawmakers to recognize the long-term value and economic impact of the arts on communities and people.

Pinellas Community Foundation and Creative Pinellas are sponsoring an Arts Advocacy Summit on Aug. 17 with support from Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts, Dunedin Fine Art Center, Clearwater Arts Alliance, and St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. The goal of the summit is to understand effective advocacy from the perspective of experts and elected leaders, then to develop a comprehensive arts advocacy plan for Pinellas County.

Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is the publisher and managing editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. 
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