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Community Voices: In support of more arts funding in Pinellas

Pinellas arts leaders

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St. Petersburg dancer Helen Hanson French. File photo.

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In an era when what makes us different takes center stage, rather than what brings us together, we wanted to take this moment to express and celebrate our commonalities. One platform that we can all stand upon together is the importance of the arts within our county.

Pinellas County continues to evolve as an epicenter within our state and within our country, for the best of what art can offer. When looking at a map, one can easily see all the stops along the way where art contributes to making our county a place that people gravitate towards. From Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor and Dunedin in north-county, Clearwater, Largo, and Pinellas Park in mid-county and Seminole, St. Petersburg and Gulfport in south-county, and the Beaches, art lives, thrives, and grows as a magnet for tourists and as an economic driver. As a county that is home to dozens of museums, multiple performing arts venues, galleries, art districts and arts-education opportunities, it is impossible to ignore the impressive offerings that Pinellas County holds, and the fact that we have become an arts destination.

As organizational leaders, representing thousands of constituents within our county’s borders, we want to acknowledge and recognize the pivotal moment that is before us, to provide adequate and consistent funding for the arts. Our county’s Tourism Development Council has taken the lead in discussions, at the suggestion of St. Petersburg Mayor and TDC member Ken Welch, to consider 1/3 of a penny that would be set aside for funding the arts within Pinellas. We applaud this action and more than anything wish to see it become a reality, avoiding any speedbumps along the way.

Therefore, we pledge to support this initiative and to work together as an arts community to ensure this potential funding resource is used to the benefit of all the arts, throughout the entire county, and in alignment with Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater’s and the county’s strategic vision of Pinellas County as a world class tourist destination.

We want to express our sense of urgency for our arts community. This urgency reveals itself in the role that art plays within our lives. Perhaps the best way to express the importance of art is to imagine our world without it. No books to read, no music to listen to, no paintings to behold, no dance to gaze at, no drama to shift our mindset to higher ground, no aspirational way to communicate and connect to each other that offers the possibility of achieving higher ground.

Art does all of this. Art, in all its forms and throughout our history, brings people and places, thoughts and feelings to the surface. It challenges us to set our personal agendas aside and experience something more than ourselves. Emerging research shows that arts activities promote good mental health and improve social cohesion, thus strengthening our communities.

Over the last 10 years, the TDC and the Board of County Commissioners has increased its financial commitment to the arts. Their contribution has been recognized and has resulted in economic growth and wellbeing, and in growing recognition of and travel to Pinellas County as an arts and cultural destination. Acknowledging that engagement with the arts and recognizing both the current and future economic and tourism impact, we respectfully request that The TDC and the BCC support the 1/3 of a penny of tourism dollars and take the next step in effectively and consistently funding the arts in Pinellas County.

Sincerely,

Barbara St. Clair, CEO, Creative Pinellas

Terry Marks, CEO, St. Petersburg Arts Alliance

Roberta Klar, Co-President; Beth Daniels, Co-President, Clearwater Arts Alliance

George Ann Bisset, CEO, Dunedin Fine Art Center

Jeanne Reynolds, ACE Member, Arts for a Complete Education

Lynn Whitelaw, Retired Director/Curator, Leepa-Ratner Museum of Art

 

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    Diane Fowler

    July 6, 2022at6:23 am

    I couldn’t agree more. The Arts bind us to our common humanity. They feed the soul. Funding is needed to help support our local arts community. We need to keep all art forms alive and our artists thriving, not surviving.

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