Donation deadline looms for United Arts to get ‘bonus’ funds
United Arts leader Juliana Steele is counting on Central Floridians to do what they did last year. A lot is riding on the success of the cultural organization’s annual Campaign for the Arts: A cool half-million in “bonus” money, to be exact.
The Campaign for the Arts — the biggest fundraiser for dozens of cultural groups in Central Florida — comes to a close April 30. If contributions hit the United Arts goal of $3.2 million, Orange County will kick in an additional $500,000.
Steele knows it’s possible. Last year, the first in which Orange County made the additional funds available, the campaign collected just shy of $3.2 million — handily exceeding 2020’s $2.7 million goal.
The Orange County money is contingent on the goal’s upward movement by $500,000 each year. The thought is: As community support grows, government investment also grows.
With about two weeks left, United Arts is short about $500,000 — but Steele, the organization’s interim director, is taking heart from two factors: The campaign is running about $785,000 ahead of the same time last year, and Central Floridians are known to be last-minute contributors.
Still, with the economic effects of COVID-19 uncertain, Steele remains a little nervous.
“I won’t count my chickens,” she said.
During the Campaign for the Arts, United Arts matches donations by 15 percent. This year, the fund drive added seven new partner organizations, meaning contributors can direct their pledges to those groups. They represent a cross-section of artistic genres: Central Florida Ballet, Opera Orlando, Timucua Arts Foundation and visual-art producer Snap! among them.
In particular, Steele said, Opera Orlando had raised a great deal — about $246,000.
“That is a huge amount of money for an organization of that size,” she said.
In addition to the campaign changes, the United Arts board of directors has changed in recent weeks with the addition of three new members. Amogh Bhonde, senior vice president at Siemens Energy; Sheldon Dutes, an anchor at WESH-Channel 2; and
Maria Isabel Sanquírico, founder and president of Eleven 11 Communications, all have joined the board.
“All three individuals reached out to us that they were interested in being involved with our organization,” Steele said.
Bhonde has expertise in business turnarounds and ensuring profitable growth. Dutes, an Orlando native and Notre Dame University graduate, previously worked at television stations in Milwaukee, Baltimore and New York City. Sanquírico has more than 25 years of experience in engaging Hispanic audiences and last year was named a Top 20 Woman in Public Relations by communications-industry website PRNews.
Steele said the trio’s interest in helping was a direct reflection of the strength and resilience of the local arts community during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s really a testament to what this arts community has accomplished that we are attracting board members that want to be involved,” she said.
And while the three will bring more nonwhite perspectives to United Arts’ governing body, Steele said their expertise was the most important quality.
“Diversity aside, these are strong people who have skill sets that would be beneficial to any board,” she said.
Diversity remains a key initiative for United Arts, which this month divided $50,000 in grants among 10 organizations in the new Diversity in the Arts program, funded by Duke Energy.
Among the recipients: Black Theatre Girl Magic and Central Florida Entertainment Advocacy, for workshops, training and networking programs; Conservatorio de Musica y Artes for children’s music lessons; Open Scene for a Latinx Performing Arts Festival; VMAX “For One Community” for a six-month educational program on fashion; and Mercury Axis for Indigenous Futurism, a program combining art and technology to explore the roots of Indigenous peoples.
Also: Bronze Kingdom, for an African art program connecting children in Parramore and Pine Hills with mentors; CAYA: Come As You Are Network, for an art show/social experiment for artists of color; Descolonizarte Teatro Inc., for a Colombian-Venezuelan oral-history performance project; and Goldsboro West Side Community Historical Association for an exhibition on the Black experience in Sanford.
While those projects come together, Steele has her eye on the calendar — and the contributions — as the campaign deadline looms. “Unlocking” the extra $500,000 from Orange County is critical as cultural organizations try to reinvent themselves post-coronavirus, she said: “That half a million will make a huge difference to the groups as we create a new way to be an arts community.”
Donations are accepted at unitedarts.cc/collaborativecampaign.