Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lead, Follow or...

The conversation continued last Friday Morning regarding efforts to implement the proposals in the Friday Morning Group's Concept Paper. Herb Snitzer and I reported on our meeting with Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel. We had a very good meeting with Commissioner Seel (we tried very hard not to talk about money).

We had previously sent the Concept Paper to Karen for her to review prior to our meeting. We asked her to just think about the concepts and leave the money aside for the moment. Ultimately we did talk about money. It is unavoidable in the current property tax "reform" environment in the state legislature. We did ask her to think about the funding for the proposals not as "new" money projects but as a rather modest reallocation of existing Cultural Affairs dollars.

We did succeed in getting Commissioner Seel to be supportive of the concept. However, the money part was definitely going to be a problem. We were urged again to look to the Tourist Development Council (TDC) as their revenue stream (bed tax on hotel and motel stays) is not going to be impacted by whatever property tax "reform" ultimately occurs. The TDC, through the Convention and Visitors Bureau, controls Tourist Development Tax grants and New Product Development grants. Ken Welch has also suggested that the TDC would be a good place to look for funding as their revenue stream is protected.

The conversation turned to the idea of government funding in general. The Concept Paper and requests for County funding all stemmed from Commissioner Welch's visit with us in February. Herb Suggested that we approach some friends in the corporate community to help us identify arts supporters in that community. Then we could strategize on the best way to pitch our proposal to them for seed money funding. We could then re-approach government for public / private partnership funding.

We renewed the discussion about the proposed size of the awards for the Pinellas Prize. Again we talked about the South Florida Cultural Councils banding together to give 10 $15,000 awards to artists every year. It was noted that Tampa gives a $15,000 stipend to their Poet Laureate and a $25,000 stipend to their Photo Laureate every year.

Herb said it was time to stop looking to others for "models" of what we ought to be doing. If we are going to think of ourselves as a leading arts community, we need to start acting like leaders. It is time for us to quit following what other communities might be doing. As a leading arts community we should be raising the bar, not seeking only to emulate someone else.

If you wish to see these proposals from our Concept Paper get implemented, we are going to need your help. We are going to need you to help us secure private funding. We are going to need your help in advocating these proposals before governmental bodies. And we are going to need your help in promoting these proposals with your friends, neighbors, relatives and anyone else who will listen.

It is time to quit following and lead.

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