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  • Writer's pictureAlex Gartner

Pensacola Arts Organizations Lose $1.5M in Funding with DeSantis’s Veto

Updated: Jun 14

Alex Gartner, Artistic & Executive Director of the Pensacola Children’s Chorus, Weighs in on the Recent Blow to Arts and Culture in Florida

On Wednesday, June 12, 2024, Governor Ron DeSantis penned his signature on the 2024-2025 budget for the State of Florida. This signature also solidified a hefty list of line-item vetoes—a prerogative of the Office of Governor—that included among them a complete erasure of arts and cultural funding totaling over $32 million. To say this is a blow to arts and cultural organizations is an understatement, and the repercussions of this unprecedented decision will assuredly be felt locally among Pensacola’s arts and cultural organizations.


With this veto, arts and cultural organizations based in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties will lose over $1.5M in anticipated funding. These organizations are known and beloved entities in the community. Among them include:


  • Artel Gallery

  • Ballet Pensacola

  • Choral Society of Pensacola

  • Jazz Society of Pensacola

  • Pensacola Children’s Chorus

  • Pensacola Lighthouse

  • Pensacola Little Theatre

  • Pensacola MESS Hall

  • Pensacola Opera

  • Pensacola Symphony Orchestra


The impact on these organizations will be measured by multiple factors that vary from group to group. Still, perhaps the biggest loss will be for what is known as “general program funding.” This type of funding helps support critical infrastructure such as rent, utilities, and administrative costs. Whereas most arts-based grants favor specific projects, the State of Florida grants allowed for general operating costs—a rare and highly sought funding area for nonprofits whose infrastructure cannot be supported by project-based funding alone.


I won’t pretend to speak on behalf of my colleagues in leadership at these fellow cultural organizations in our community. However, I know many of them personally and have spoken to several since the announcement was made yesterday afternoon. Collectively, we are all back to the drawing board wondering how we are going to fill this gap in funding.


Already, we are indebted to the generosity of our local community. Our local governments provide critical funding administered through Arts, Culture & Entertainment, Inc., a local agency that manages a grant program to qualifying arts and cultural organizations in Escambia County. The philanthropic efforts of countless foundations and donors help ensure that inspiring concerts, stimulating educational programs and transformative scholarships make an impact for thousands Northwest Floridians. To ask more of our community, especially when $17 billion exists in the State of Florida’s reserves, is a daunting perspective.


In March of 2020, I penned an article for the Pensacola News Journal on the future of local arts organizations amid the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. In my plea for support, I said this:


Unlike other types of businesses, most arts organizations do not have “goods” that you can pick-up curbside. What we offer are transformational, life-long experiences with the arts that are memorable for both participants and community members.

If you place value in our work, then please continue to pledge your support. This unprecedented $1.5M loss to Pensacola’s arts and cultural organizations is going to be incredibly challenging. With your support, we can face it together.


 

BY THE NUMBERS

The following numbers were taken from ranked lists of grant applications administered by the Florida Division of Arts & Culture that were recommended by the Florida Council on Art & Culture and submitted to the Legislature. In turn, the Legislature made decisions about funding levels for the grant programs and determined funding in accordance with Florida Statutes.


Cultural & Museum Grants (General Program Support)
  • Pensacola Opera - $131,800

  • Pensacola Little Theatre - $107,498

  • Pensacola Symphony Orchestra - $150,000

  • Choral Society of Pensacola - $19,750

  • Jazz Society of Pensacola - $35,570

  • Pensacola Children’s Chorus - $106,969

  • Ballet Pensacola - $110,000

  • Pensacola Lighthouse - $90,000

  • Pensacola MESS Hall - $70,216

  • Artel Gallery - $17,274


Cultural Facilities
  • Pensacola Little Theatre - $436,000


Cultural Endowment (State Matching Share)
  • Pensacola Symphony Orchestra - $240,000


Culture Builds Florida Grants (Specific Cultural Projects)
  • Gulf Coast Kiln Walk Society - $25,000



 

Check out WEAR Channel 3 New's coverage on the funding loss.



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