Arts groups see surge in United Arts money
Annual grants getting $793K more from Orange County
The annual United Arts operating-support grants will bring extra holiday cheer to Central Florida arts and cultural groups — to the tune of $793,000 more from Orange County. Some organizations will see their grant triple; others will see tens of thousands more to help with the basics of running a nonprofit — electricity, facility maintenance and the like — as well as programming.
This year’s pot of money, which United Arts of Central Florida split among 34 notable cultural nonprofits, grew from $1.495 million to $2.288 million. The funds will go to organizations such as the Orlando Museum of Art, Enzian Theater in Maitland, Orlando Fringe, the Orange County Regional History Center and the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden.
“This is a big help,” said Gabriel Preisser, executive and artistic director of Opera Orlando. His organization’s grant more than tripled — from $7,600 last year to $27,000 this year. “It allows us to invest in our infrastructure and staff.”
The Orlando Science Center saw a gain of nearly $100,000 — from $176,700 awarded in December 2018 to $271,200 this year.
“This funding will enable us to continue and expand our program for teens called Catalyst, which builds essential STEM skills while also giving them valuable career
development experience,” said JoAnn Newman, president and CEO of the science center.
The program, which takes place weekly during the school year, encourages creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. Students are introduced to topics such as 3D printing and prototyping, wearable technology and coding.
“This is how we work to grow tomorrow’s workforce today,” Newman said.
Among other large organizations, Orlando Ballet also received a boost of nearly $100,000, from $177,700 to $271,300. The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra received the largest allocation, with its grant increasing from $199,400 to $276,800. The Central Florida Community Arts grant nearly doubled, from $21,500 to $41,500.
For midsize groups, the grant to the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Maitland more than doubled. The center, which is planning a move to a new museum near downtown Orlando, received $61,900 this year, up from $30,300. The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens nearly doubled its grant, going from $16,400 last year to $31,300.
Among small groups, Creative City Project — which presents the annual Immerse Festival — more than doubled its grant, from $5,000 to $13,700. The Timucua Arts Foundation, which presents concerts and a variety of other cultural events in Orlando, was awarded $6,800 this year after not receiving a grant in 2018.
“The operating-support grant is a big deal for us,” said executive director Christopher Belt. “We will use it to increase our organizational capacity to deliver our uniquely integrated performing and visual-arts programming.”
To receive the money, organizations must demonstrate their programs are high quality, show management and fiscal responsibility and perform outreach and education, with an emphasis on diversity.
They are scored by panels of judges from organizations such as Orlando Magic, Universal Orlando and Disney; their scores determine the amount of funding.
Belt said Timucua’s award was a vote of confidence in the organization’s programs.
“What it means to us is that thanks to the support of the community, we have succeeded in increasing the quality and quantity of our offerings,” he said. “We presented 100 concerts, plays, and literary events in 2019 and taught tuition-free music composition classes to dozens of students through our Works With Sounds program.”
The extra money in the grant pool was part of a spending package designed to strengthen cultural organizations approved this fall by Orange County commissioners. The funding comes from the Tourist Development Tax, a 6 percent levy on stays in hotels and other short-term accommodations. By law the money must be spent in the areas of tourism, sports and culture.
“We are thankful to Orange County for providing the increased funding for these grants and giving United Arts the opportunity to enhance its support for all its funded groups,” said Brendan Lynch, chairman of the board of United Arts of Central Florida, in announcing the grants. “It is critical to the mission of United Arts to provide this essential support for our cultural organizations.”
Even with the additional money, the grants fulfilled only 58.5 percent of funding requests, the United Arts announcement said.