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Saturday, Nov 18, 2017
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Promoting arts to stimulate economy is goal of Florida initiative

TAMPA - Despite deep cuts to Florida's arts budget, legislators and other officials have launched an initiative to promote cultural programs throughout the state. The main reason, Secretary of State Kurt Browning said, is that arts and culture rake in $3 billion a year and sustain 88,000 jobs. "Arts can be an economic draw in our communities," Browning said this morning during the launch of the Culture Builds Florida campaign in downtown Tampa. "We intend to promote the variety of ways arts and culture can create jobs, stimulate the economy and contribute to Florida's tourism." The budget for the arts peaked at $13 million in 2006-07. By 2010, money for cultural programs and museums was slashed to $950,000. More became available when lawmakers last year approved $2 million in grants for 2011-12.
State Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, an advocate for the arts, said finding money in next year's budget won't be easy. It's too early to gauge whether Browning's arts campaign will sway the Legislature to approve more money. Glorioso acknowledged that during economic downturns, art, music and dance programs are the first cut, not only in the state budget but by local governments and school districts. "The key is keeping the arts in the forefront," Glorioso said. "As the budget process goes on, we'll have to see what discretionary money we have for it." Glorioso said promoting the arts is important because tourists visit Florida not only for theme parks or beaches, but also to watch plays, attend symphonies and see other performances. State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said she wants to make sure the Legislature is "still willing to put hard money into the arts because we know it pays off. It's good for the economy. Put money into the arts: That's our goal this year." Browning said he will continue to ask lawmakers for funding. "I ask the Legislature every year to reach into their pockets for the arts," he said. "I will continue to go back to the Legislature asking for more for the arts." The Culture Builds Florida campaign was launched at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The center also hosted the program's first conference, which included workshops for artists looking to promote their work. "Tampa is an ideal place to have this launch," Browning said. "This area exemplifies arts and culture. There's a three- or four-block area around here with some of the finest cultural amenities in the state." The Tampa Museum of Art and Glazer's Children Museum are near the Straz Center on the Hillsborough River along North Ashley Drive.

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