Hillsborough Arts Council re-emerges as division of county government

Since 1967, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County has been an independent special district separate from county government. But at a meeting in August 2020, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to have the ACHC become part of the County. One of the biggest reasons for this new configuration is the anticipated cost savings: The Arts Council is expected to save a little over $157,000 annually by eliminating administrative costs in its budget that can be handled by the county.
Another big plus is that the new Hillsborough Arts Council will gain equal status as other divisions within county government, allowing it to strategically collaborate with economic development, redevelopment, workforce development, tourism promotions, the Entrepreneurial Collaborative Center, and other cultural and performing arts programs managed by the County.
For now, changes won’t be immediately noticeable to the general public but may come further down the road. Rather than diminishing or getting rid of services, the goal is to build upon those already existing.
“The Arts Council as we know it is going away and we will be a division of County government, which is transformative,’’ says Martine Collier, Executive Director of the old and the new. “This structure is found in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. They both have incredibly robust arts and community outreach. They are doing beautiful jobs having their arts and culture under the County, so we have great role models.” 
For the short term, some of the small changes will be that the Arts Council Board will serve in more of an advisory role and be more connected to the grant-giving process by serving as panelists, and the County will approve funding, which artists won’t really notice. Over time and adapting to this new structure, the Arts Council is looking to work on projects with other County agencies.
“Right now, we aren’t really connected to the County’s public art program. Being part of the County, we will have more opportunities to connect not just with them, but with other arts funding initiatives so we can really be more of an arts collaborator and facilitator to broaden the scope of arts within the local cultural economy,” Collier says.
One of the things discussed when the change was brought to Board was to make the move cost-neutral to the County. Instead of spending so much on administration, the Arts Council can address their core missions and save more for programming to create a more robust program impact within this new framework. 
“We should not be squandering resources; every dollar is important, and the cost savings are substantial,’’ Collier says. “In 2016, the county hired AMS Planning and Research to take a look at Hillsborough County. Their assessment was that [arts] efforts were widely fragmented and didn’t have much capacity to step into broader roles. 

“By having the County step in, we will be able to broaden the scope of what we could do for the cultural economy,” Collier says. “Before COVID-19, we were trying to do grant workshops all over the county, and we never reached as many people as we have since we’ve done them virtually. Looking at the cultural landscape and what makes it thrive, the pandemic taught us that we’ve got to be flexible and there are better ways to do things, so the time is excellent for this transition.”
To learn more, visit the Arts Council website.
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Read more articles by Caitlin Albritton.

Caitlin Albritton is a freelance writer based in Tampa with a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not looking at art throughout town, she can be found making it. You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website. Visit her recent line of inlay “wearable paintings.”