When financial support for the arts feels threatened, it’s a prime time to recognize and shine a spotlight on local public officials fighting for arts funding.
That's what happened on July 15, when the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners in Florida was awarded the Public Leadership in the Arts Award for County Arts Leadership at National Association of Counties’ (NACo) annual conference in Nashville, TN. These Public Leadership annual awards -- given by Americans for the Arts and NACo in different categories from the local to congressional level -- are presented to elected officials who champion the arts and arts education in their community and promote its value to our nation and the world at large.
One of the main reasons the Commissioners -- Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Al Higginbotham, Pat Kemp, Lesley “Les” Miller, Jr., Sandra Murman, and Stacy White -- are being honored is because of their quick reaction in March to vote unanimously to launch a Cultural Assets Commission in defiant response to state officials slashing arts funding. This new commission was established to provide finances for new large-scale festivals and activities located within Hillsborough County that would be losing out on state support.
Yet, they have done much more than just this. Since 2006, the Commissioners have continually fought for the arts community by disseminating $234 million for local arts and culture. For the past decade, they have worked to increase funding and have added more than $1 million annually to the Arts Council of Hillsborough County to re-grant funds that go toward individual artists and cultural organizations, providing artists in county schools, and supporting the cultural network.
“This recognition of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners for their support of arts and culture in our community is richly deserved. Their sustained commitment to funding arts and culture throughout the county is impressive,” says Martine Meredith Collier, Executive Director of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. “Equally important, they have provided innovative leadership in developing programs to build stronger cultural assets, provide access for every citizen, and ensure cultural equity.”